Logging concessionaire Grand Atlantic Timber International (GAT) has had its
logging concessions canceled by the government. That is in response to
allegations of illegal logging in breach of the government's logging moratorium
instituted January 1 this year.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and
Fisheries, Chan Sarun, told the National Assembly June 19 that the company would
no longer be allowed to work its concessions. That was in response to criticisms
from opposition MP Son Chhay that the government had done nothing to combat
widespread illegal logging.
"For example in the GAT case, the government
has decided to cancel [the concession], but has not announced it publicly yet,"
Sarun told legislators.
And in the section of his speech regarding
forestry at the annual Consultative Group (CG) meeting the following day, Prime
Minister Hun Sen told donors of the decision.
"A few days ago I signed a
sub-decree to cancel a forest concession that was in contravention with logging
regulations," he said. "The government will rigorously pursue this stance in
The head of GAT was out of the country when the Post
contacted the company and was consequently unavailable for
Environmental NGO Global Witness welcomed the decision to cancel
GAT's concession as "excellent news". GW campaigner Jon Buckrell said the move
"should send a message to other concessionaires that illegal logging will not be
tolerated by the government".
However, Buckrell cautioned against
over-optimism, saying the NGO hoped the GAT decision would not prove an isolated
incident. In its latest report released June 21, GW alleged illegal logging this
year by Pheapimex Fuchan, which it described as "probably the best connected of
all the concessionaires".
It said the company "remains one of the worst
perpetrators of illegal and unsustainable logging".
The Post tried
unsuccessfully to contact Pheapimex about the allegations, but was told no one
was available. DFW is currently investigating the Pheapimex
"Somehow Pheapimex always falls through the gaps," said Buckrell of
previous unsuccessful attempts to have the company prosecuted for alleged
abuses. "If the government cancels Pheapimex, then we will know we are getting
The new report, Deforestation without limits: How the
Cambodian government failed to tackle the untouchables, documents numerous
contractual breaches by logging companies including widespread failure to pay
financial deposits or royalties, and almost universal breaches of their
Pheapimex was one of seven companies the
organization highlighted in its report. GW said it conducted an aerial survey of
its concession in Kampong Thom province on March 30, 2002.
current logging moratorium, extensive signs of recent logging were observed,"
the report stated. "These findings were backed up by a field trip from 1st - 3rd
April in which 142 freshly cut ... logs were discovered in a log rest
GAT fell foul of the same breach, and GW would like to see similar
action taken against Pheapimex. Until now, the report stated, the Department of
Forestry and Wildlife has taken no action.
Buckrell added that GW would
remain in Cambodia, although "whether we are part of the [forest crimes
monitoring] project is another matter".
"If the government will start
taking action against [certain] corrupt officials at DFW and take our reports
seriously, then we are prepared to move ahead [with them]," he said.
clear reference to numerous criticisms from various government officials, he
said the organization had come close to leaving on a number of
"Our position in Cambodia is constantly under review," he
said. "We are not prepared to put up with being perceived as part of the
In related news the National Assembly is debating the draft Forestry Law,
which - in various guises - has been six years in the making. Prime Minister Hun
Sen told the CG meeting that he hoped the law would be passed "in the near
The law has been pushed by donors, although forestry observers
and some in civil society have criticized it as flawed. Among other complaints,
they said it gives too much discretionary power to DFW in dealing with forest