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Cardamom destruction destined for court

Cardamom destruction destined for court

THE Forestry Department is preparing to take Malaysian timber company GAT International

to court for illegally logging in the Cardamom mountains.

Aerial reconnaissance of the Cardamoms by Global Witness, Conservation International

and the Forestry Department on May 26 uncovered systematic illegal logging by the

Malaysian forestry concessionaire.

The Chief of the Forestry and Wildlife Department, Ty Sokhun, said on June 7 that

his staff were preparing a file which will be forwarded to the courts for legal action.

However he could not say what type of penalty the company could be facing or if they

would lose their license to operate."That is up to the court," he said.

Global Witness said the discovery of the illegal logging came about when they accompanied

a Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) inspection team back to the GAT concession

area following reports that 777 illegally cut logs worth $104,895 to the Cambodian

treasury, at the current royalty rate of $54 per cubic meter, were found in two separate

GAT rest areas.

David Mead from Conservation International, who was part of the inspection team,

said that Mr Leang, the GAT Koh Kong concession manager, admitted that GAT had cut

logs when it had no permit to cut and collected and transported logs when it had

no permit for log collection or transportation.

Patrick Alley of Global Witness said that this latest discovery now calls into question

GAT's previous claims that it had nothing to do with illegal logging despite evidence

to the contrary.

"These new findings also call into question the veracity of GAT's explanation

that the 4,000 logs seized by the DFW in late 1999 were anarchically cut," he

said.

"The DFW should question GAT's management very closely about these logs and

at the very least GAT should not be allowed to bid for them when they come up for

public auction."

He said that Mr Leang further admitted to the team that GAT had continued to construct

a large logging road till May 30, despite being asked by the director of the Forestry

Department, Ty Sokhun, not to do so a month earlier, and that his company had illegally

cut logs in the concession of Samling International, a fellow member of the Cambodia

Timber Industry Association (CTIA).

"GAT's arrogance is breathtaking: not only has this company disregarded a direct

request by Ty Sokhun to stop building its logging road, it has also illegally logged

in a neighboring concession operated by Henry Kong, boss of Samling International

and CTIA spokesman," said Global Witness spokesman Jon Buckrell.

"The CTIA have consistently argued, as they did at the Consultative Group meeting

in Paris and at the ADB Concession Review workshop before then, that the forests

would disappear if the concessionaires were not there to protect them.

"This case clearly demonstrates that GAT has logged illegally and that Samling

was incapable of preventing it; I doubt Samling even noticed," said Buckrell.

Global Witness said they were calling on the Cambodian Government to demonstrate

its commitment to forestry reform by suspending all activity in the Cardamoms immediately

and canceling the GAT concession for major breach of contract.

They said the Cambodian Government should also prosecute Samling for failing to protect

its concession as required by clause 7 of Hun Sen's January 1999, 17 Point Declaration.

They are also calling for both concessionaires to be expelled from the CTIA for "conduct

derogatory to the dignity or injurious to the reputation or interests of the Association"

(clause 2.6.1 CTIA Memorandum and Articles of Association).

But the most urgent action, according to Conservation Inter-national's David Mead,

is for the destruction of the bridge that GAT is using to access the Samling concession

in the Cardamoms.

"From Conservation Inter-national's perspective we need to dismantle the bridge,

which is made up of a 180 [illegally cut] logs," he said, adding that "the

logs need to be confiscated", given that they would be worth more than $100,000

at current market prices.

Spokespeople for GAT and Samling could not be contacted for comment.

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