Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dam site still logged: NGOs

Dam site still logged: NGOs

A body of water amassed by the Stung Atai hydropower dam
A body of water amassed by the Stung Atai hydropower dam and surrounding forested areas in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district last week. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Dam site still logged: NGOs

NGOS have accused logging tycoon Try Pheap’s MDS Import-Export Company – which had a licence to clear forest during the construction of the Stung Atai hydropower dam in Pursat – of continuing to log the area despite the dam being finished.

Ouch Leng, director of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF), said he and officials from two other NGOs visited the dam site last week and observed logging in the area.

“The [Stung] Atai hydropower dam is operational and the reservoir is full, so why does the company still log wood?” Leng said. “In fact, they are just using the licence as an excuse.”

Two other NGOs – the Natural Resource Protection Group and another that did not want to be named due to fear of repercussions – accompanied CHRTF members on the visit and supported Leng’s claims that logging was continuing around the Chinese-built dam in Veal Veng district.

Documents seen by the Post show that the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries approved a request in 2009 for MDS to collect wood from the area while the dam was under construction.

“[T]he ministry agreed with the request of the Forestry Administration by permitting … Mr Kev Chann Thorn, representative of MDS Import and Export, to collect wood … at the Atai hydropower dam,” reads a letter from the ministry, dated May 4, 2009.

Leng said that due to a lack of transparency in the bidding process, Pheap was able to buy the timber for just a fraction of what he would have been able to sell it for.

According to the same document, inked by ministry secretary-general Lor Rasmey, MDS was permitted to pay only $189 for every cubic metre of luxury timber it took from the site. Certain grades of luxury timber can fetch thousands of dollars per cubic metre.

One of the unnamed NGO workers who went to the site last week said he saw up to 20 MDS trucks transporting timber out of the dam area and along National Road 4.

“The activity is completely illegal, but they say they are restoring the area. How can forest remain?” he said.

A representative of MDS Import-Export, who asked not be named, denied the allegations, saying that the company’s contract finished last year.

“How can we log in Pursat province? There are international conservation groups such as CI and Wildlife Alliance that monitor very strictly and use planes to check the middle of the forest,” he said.

Pheap, who has licences to clear economic land concessions across the country, has been accused of cross-border timber smuggling and forcing the eviction of more than 1,400 families in his quest for ELCs.

Rasmey and Khorn Sareth, a senior Forestry Administration official, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement