FORESTRY experts and logging concessionaires met in Phnom Penh on April 20 and 21
to examine reforms recommended by an Asian Development Bank-funded draft report on
sustainable forestry management in Cambodia.
The workshop, lead by a three-member international panel of forestry experts, discussed
the crisis facing Cambodian forestry as outlined in the strongly worded draft report.
The report said the poor management of Cambodia's forests represented a "total
systems failure", and recommended immediate reforms.
The panel heard from the workshop attendees who presented a wide range of opinions
on the accuracy of the report and suitability of its recommendations on reform of
the forestry sector.
The Chairman of the Cambodia Timber Industry Association (CITA), Henry Kong, said
the Concession Review report contained several "baseless allegations" that
were unfair to the concessionaires.
"It seems that it is politically and socially correct to treat concessionaires
as dispensable, convenient scapegoats for most of the ills of the industry,"
He complained that the industry was being unfairly blamed for forest crimes committed
in concessions by "illegal loggers, many of which are powerful entities within
the military and provincial authorities".
These illegal acts, said Kong, were out of the control of the concessionaires as
well as the central Government.
The review report was too quick to accept the reporting of the environmental watchdog
organization, Global Witness (GW), without conducting a thorough investigation of
the allegations, he said.
In addition, Kong was "quite amazed" that the review's consultants were
able to determine the remaining cutting periods in the concessions by "two-day
visits and some aerial observations".
David Mead, the Country Representative for Conservation International, supported
Kong's statement that powerful entities in the military were, at least in the past,
responsible for much of the illegal logging.
Mead said that in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces it was the responsibility of each
military division's Second-in-Command to raise money to supply his division - often
"In your plan you must take the guns out of the forest so they are not holding
the concessionaires to ransom," Mead told the workshop.
Kong disagreed with Mead's recommendation that all armed units be withdrawn. "Most
concession areas still have bandits and Khmer Rouge remnants. We will agree to reducing
armed units employed by concessionaires but not a total withdrawal."
The Director General of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW), Ty Sokhun,
denied allegations in the draft report stating that DFW staff worked on behalf of
the concessionaires. "I have never seen or heard of this subcontracting,"
He acknowledged that DFW staff did use the support of the concessionaires for transport,
accommodation, and food when working in the field, but Sokhun said this did not result
in a conflict of interest.
Serguei Naumov, Managing Director of Casotim, a Russian-Cambodian joint venture for
wood processing, and Secretary to CTIA, said he fully agrees that sustainability
But Naumov said the majority of the allegations against the concessionaires have
yet to be proven. "Surely concessionaires cannot be blamed for illegal logging
. Illegal logging could be more correctly defined as unlicensed or uncontrolled logging
by local or powerful people," he said.
"Many concessions were heavily depleted by locals and military before concessions
were given. [Casotim's concession] already had about 70% of its natural resources
harvested before our commencement in 1996.
"The concessionaires should not be chastised for their breaches of contract
because of the security situation in the field and unclear policy that prevented
our doing what we were supposed to do," said Naumov.
He also disagreed strongly with the draft report's recommendation that a moratorium
be placed on logging until new forest management plans have been put in place.
Naumov said: "Environmentally, I am doubtful of good results. I don't believe
a vacuum in [logging] operations and the supply of lumber to the local market will
remain. Surely, someone will try to obtain the products and supply [the] local population."
Kong concurred, but suggested a major scaling-back of logging. "I believe cutting
back the cut to 50 to 70 per cent, depending on the state of the concession, will
give us a better alternative," said Kong.
He said if concessions are canceled because the forest has already been depleted
then there must be acknowledgment that the depletion was caused mainly by uncontrolled
logging in the past.
"The Government had the responsibility to protect the concessions. So if depletion
is the case, the Government has failed. The question of compensation by the Government
arises," said Kong.
After reviewing the draft report and the written and verbal recommendations presented
at the workshop, the expert panel planned to release their recommendations on April
In an interview with the Post, a panel member gave a panel-approved summary of the
following key recommendations to the report writers, the concessionaires, and the
*The panel felt the report should clarify that the legal and performance-compliance
components of the analysis were not used by the project team to make recommendations
on the cancellations of concessions.
It is only the amount of remaining timber on the ground that is an indicator of the
future sustainability of a concession.
The panel noted that many workshop participants felt that environmental and social
values were not given enough emphasis in the report.
*The panel feels the final report should make clear that the report used as its base
of reference Government subdecrees and World Bank forest harvesting guidelines that
deal extensively on environmental, conservation and social issues.
The report would be greatly improved if it briefly and clearly stated what is expected
from the concessionaires' forest management plans.
*The panel recommends the forest concession review's project team work with the DFW
to develop action plans and to highlight priority and risks for the Government so
it can make informed decisions.
The report also needs to deal with issues of capacity within the DFW and make recommendations
of how that capacity can be strengthened.
It should also make recommendations as to how overcapacity in the industry can be
brought into line with sustainable forest management (SFM) and recommendations for
action that should be taken by the stakeholders and the Government.
The DFW should notify concessionaires within two months on the required standards
for the development of SFM plans and guidelines. The standards should include the
requirement of an environmental and social impact assessment.
Specific time-bound performance milestones to develop an SFM plan should be set and
the maximum time limit for the completion of the plan should be one year. Concessionaires
should be encouraged to begin developing these plans immediately.
Assurance should be given that concessionaires be allowed to continue to operate
provided that performance milestones are met and the management plans meet SFM standards.
* The panel recommends that the DFW inform three concessionaires whose licenses-to-operate
the draft report recommended the Government cancel, that they will not be issued
a cutting permit until they develop SFM plans. If they do develop these plans, then
they should be allowed to continue to operate.
For all other concessions, the Government should implement a one-year partial moratorium
consistent with a 75 per cent cutting reduction as recommended by the Cambodian Timber
Industry Association (CTIA).
Concessionaires who do not meet performance milestones within one month after receiving
notification from the DFW that they have lapsed in their commitment should have their
The report should offer clear guidance as to the appropriate process of establishing
royalties consistent with future management plans.
The Government should welcome CTIA's offer to hire an outside firm to provide the
basis to develop royalty formulas that are consistent with both SFM and sustainable
*The panel also recommends that current royalty rates should be reduced on a interim
basis consistent with regional norms and until management plans are in place. But
this reduction should be subject to the implementation of CTIA's offer to reduce
the existing allowable cut up to 75 per cent until SFM plans are in place with royalty
formulas based on them.
There should not be blanket royalty rates but instead, the rates should be based
in part on the cost of extracting timber from a particular forest unit.
*The panel recommend that the Forest Crime Monitoring Unit (FCMU) be supported and
expanded. The FCMU should also follow up on charges made by Global Witness since
The panel does not support the use of military units against forest crimes. It is
inappropriate for military units to play any part in forest management and unless
they are in concession for national defense reasons, these units should be relocated.
*The panel recommends the Government quickly enact new forestry and land laws.
Local communities must have access to forest resources as is the right under law
as well as customary use. This use must be taken into consideration under SFM plans.
The report recommends that the DFW should be the primary agency responsible for forest
resources. And the DFW should take care to avoid a conflict of interest between themselves
and the concessionaires.
*Finally, the panel recommended the Government acknowledge the stakeholders' willingness
to move forward under the principles of SFM.
"It remains for the sovereign Government to set the pace of change. The pace
must be fast if the country is not to suffer irredeemable loss to a priceless heritage
and to the resource base on which so much of its peoples' present and future livelihood
depends," said the panel.