ABAN on exporting logs and sawn timber was re-imposed on March 31, but the flow
of wood across the borders will be virtually impossible to stop, admitted the
Environment Minister Dr Mok Mareth.
Mareth confessed that his ministry
and the Ministry of Agriculture have yet to decide who has responsibility for
the ban and there are few border officials to police it.
is so short of enforcement officials it is even prepared to offer private
citizens a bounty of 10 percent of the value of timber they intercept, the
He said: "Law enforcement will be a very difficult task.
We do not yet have a system of punishment, and we do not have a budget. But we
must find a way to encourage the provinces and every institution to work
The ministry also is facing obstruction from provincial
authorities on the border and, with leading officials jealously guarding their
stakes in the illicit trade.
An environmental expert said that some
factions within the central government also have a vested interest in avoiding
Logs are Cambodia's most valuable export, with the government
owning three sawmills and the rest being in the hands of the influential
The feeling of powerlessness among those in the government
seeking to enforce the ban was summed up by the Ministry of Agriculture's Under
Secretary of State May Sam Oeun who said: "Unfortunately, there are people who
are stronger than our policies of forest protection."
magnitude of the task facing him, Mareth cited an example of a blitz launched
last year to prevent logs crossing into Vietnam from Kratie province.
government despatched three hundred police and 20 forestry guards on the mission
but they quickly succumbed to bribes from Vietnamese traffickers and little if
any timber was stopped.
Mareth said he sympathized with the offficials
as they were only paid $30 a month and faced harsh conditions in border
The crackdown was, said Mareth, "a failure." He is now campaigning
to raise the bounty on intercepted logs to 30 percent.
Mareth hopes a new
national committee for forest protection, comprised of officials from the
Ministries of Agriculture, Environment and Defense, will attract greater
government funding and raise awareness of the problem.
plans to meet every two weeks and organize inspection trips to the
An environmental advisor close to the government said: "The
ban is silly. It won't stop anything. We could do a lot more damage control if
the government would open one or two regulated export centers and charge
extremely high tariffs."
Untac attempted to stem the illegal flow of wood
with border patrol teams, but the quantity was too great, said Mbella Ngongi of
UNDP. The teams ultimately opted for simple monitoring.
Untac-imposed ban lasted only twelve months before it was temporarily lifted by
the government on Dec 31, giving logging companies - mostly Thai - a three month
grace period to finish contracts.