Two firms holding concessions in rapidly disappearing northern forests are amassing stockpiles of tens of thousands of luxury logs cut both within and outside their leases and trucking them on to Vietnam, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights has alleged.
CCHR investigators that tracked logging operations have snapped video and pictures of huge stockpiles of logs they allege are being transported between economic land concessions granted to Vietnamese firm CRCK and powerful tycoon Try Pheap.
They allege the logging operations amount to a criminal misuse of the two firm’s ELCs under various provisions of sub-decrees regulating the use of such concessions and the environmental impacts of their development.
Chhim Savuth, CCHR’s public forums coordinator, said he had tracked at least 15 logging trucks hauling loads of 30 to 50 tonnes of luxury timber from CRCK’s ELC in Kampong Thom province’s Sandan district to the Vietnamese border.
“Prey Lang forest is suffering from mass destruction exploited by economic land concessionaires,” he said.
CRCK was granted a 6,155-hectare ELC in 2010 inside the Prey Long forest, which remains unprotected, though conservations argue it is a crucial watershed, feeding Cambodian aquifers that support a vast number of communities.
Some 20 to 30 homemade tractors had also been found transporting timber from far outside the boundaries of Try Pheap Import Export’s 9,190-hectare ELC in Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district, which had also been tracked onto Vietnam, Savuth said.
“They buy timber like they are buying fish in the markets; I deeply regret the loss of forest,” he said.
In some cases, the luxury timber was being processed on site, where large cranes had been found.
Try Pheap Import Export’s concession is inside the 248,556-hectare protected Beoung Per Wildlife Sanctuary.
There are at least nine ELCs inside Beoung Per.
In February, Try Pheap was also granted the right to purchase timber from every ELC in Ratanakkiri for export.
Neither company could be reached for comment yesterday, but Kampong Thom Provincial Governor Uth Sam Orn said the logging operations described in his province had gained legal permission.
“The Vietnamese company [CRCK] only took land, and the local Cambodian companies are licensed by the state to log before the company starts planting the rubber trees, and those companies also pay taxes to the state as well,” he said.
Regardless of the legal technicalities, Cambodia’s northern forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Rights group Adhoc estimates some 2.6 million hectares of the country have been granted as ELCs.
Prey Lang community representative Hoeun Sopheap said he feared CRCK was unstoppable and the forest he called home would soon be gone.