Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Data back up logging report




Data back up logging report

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A satellite image of a timber depot in Vietnam near an unofficial crossing from Cambodia near the O Leav River. EIA

Data back up logging report

Newly released Vietnamese customs data yesterday added further weight to reports that Vietnamese-backed illegal logging in Cambodia’s Ratanakkiri province surged during the dry season after provincial authorities in Vietnam’s Gia Lai province approved a mass importation of timber.

The data – which show a staggering spike in Cambodian timber flowing to Vietnam in March – was compiled and released by US NGO Forest Trends, whose regional analyst Phuc Xuan To yesterday said Vietnam’s central government, unhappy about diplomatic ramifications of the mass importation, was mulling changes to prohibit provincial authorities from authorising timber trade.

The new figures come after a damning report released Monday by the Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) and previous reporting by The Post, which found that between November and April loggers working for Vietnamese timber traders stripped vast areas of protected forests in Ratanakkiri and flouted Cambodia’s supposed timber export ban, issued in January last year.

This surge followed a decision by Gia Lia Provincial People’s Committee in September to permit 16 companies from the province to import more than 300,000 cubic metres of timber.

In their report, EIA estimated just over that amount was stripped from Ratanakkiri’s protected areas and presented satellite pictures showing huge logs yards on the Vietnamese side of the border.

The customs figures, obtained by The Post yesterday, also suggest the quota was met, and then some.

Between November and March the period of reported intensive logging Vietnam received 348,000 cubic metres of timber, including 197,831 cubic metres of uncut logs, valued at almost $150 million dollars, according to the data.

In March alone, Vietnam received more than 98,000 cubic metres of Cambodian timber, more than half of which (51,949 cubic metres) were uncut logs, which have been illegal to export for two decades.

Cambodia’s Environment Minister Say Sam Al yesterday asked for more time to respond to EIA’s report, which alleges Vietnamese traders paid millions of dollars in bribes to Cambodian officials to log the country’s forests and smuggle out timber.

According to an article run by the Lao Dong Newspaper in Vietnam, senior officials from the country’s Communist Party visited the province on April 13 and warned local officials to stop people crossing into Cambodia to log illegally.

Via email, Xuan To, of Forest Trends, said Gia Lai’s 300,000-cubic-metre quota had stirred controversy within the country following complaints by Cambodian authorities to their Vietnamese counterparts, which Sam Al would not comment on.

He said currently, local authorities such as those in Gia Lai could approve timber imports through border crossings under their jurisdiction without the central government’s approval. However, this may change, he said.

“My insights from the MOIT [Ministry of Industry and Trade] show that MOIT recently has advised the prime minister to ban all imports through supplementary crossings between Vietnam and Cambodia and Vietnam and Laos. If the prime minister agrees with this advice, Gia Lai authorities, or other local authorities, cannot allow any imports,” he said.

Emails to Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and Ministry of Foreign Affairs went unanswered yesterday.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped