Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Forest abuse still rampant, says report

Forest abuse still rampant, says report

Forest abuse still rampant, says report

A network of Cambodian elites involving government officials, relatives of senior

officials, RCAF military units and well-connected business tycoons is continuing

to "cause severe damage to Cambodia's remaining forests" according to an

in-depth report released today by the UK-based NGO Global Witness (GW).

"A kleptocratic elite is stripping Cambodia's forests," reads the first

of the report's main findings.

"The last global forest cover survey by the Food and Agriculture Organization

(FAO) found that Cambodia had lost 29 percent of its primary tropical forest cover

over a five-year period," according to the report, a copy of which was obtained

by the Post.

"In many cases illegal logging is taking place under the guise of legally dubious

plantation developments and harvesting permits. Many of these plantations and permits

are being allocated to a small group of individuals who have close relations with

senior politicians."

The report details a number of logging syndicates with links to the highest levels

of government and says that they have been implicated in the following:

* large-scale illegal logging in the Prey Long forest, which is described as the

largest lowland evergreen forest in mainland Southeast Asia.

* Felling of thousands of resin-producing trees, which are protected under Cambodian

law.

* Use of fraudulent transportation permits describing logs as lesser-valued firewood

which has cost the Cambodian government over a million dollars in lost tax revenue.

* The export to China of millions of dollars worth of plywood on which no taxes have

been paid.

Up until April 2003, Global Witness was also the Royal Government's official independent

monitor of Cambodia's forestry sector.

It is unlikely Global Witness' latest report, entitled "Cambodia's Family Trees:

illegal logging and the stripping of public assets by Cambodia's elites," will

be warmly welcomed by government officials.

Two thousand copies of GW's previous report on illegal logging in Cambodia entitled

"Taking a cut" were confiscated in February 2005 at Phnom Penh International

Airport by customs officials. The report documented illegal logging in the Phnom

Aural region, identifying the various companies and individuals involved.

GW says subsequently some of its local staff received threats from soldiers and that

five of its international staff were banned from entering the country. They eventually

closed their Phnom Penh office in September 2005.

For the newest report, Global Witness says it will be mailing hard copies to a list

of donors in Phnom Penh. The report in both Khmer and English will be available on

their website at www.globalwitness.org in both PDF and word formats.

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