At least a dozen companies including some of Cambodia’s most prominent developers have been illegally logging and transporting rosewood since the election without any action from authorities, a pair of local NGOs alleged.
In a report released yesterday, the Coalition of Cambodian Farmer Community and the Cambodian Youth Network said local activists had recorded illegal deforestation in Kampong Cham, Kampong Chhnang, Kampong Speu, Kampong Thom, Koh Kong, Kratie, Preah Vihear, Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces.
“We are concerned that the forest will completely disappear in the near future, and this type of rosewood will be completely extinct due to the government’s neglect, as it is busy with the political deadlock,” the statement says.
Though a dozen companies are named, the report focuses primarily on tycoon Try Pheap’s holdings in Preah Vihear, Pursat and Ratanakkiri, and his warehouses in those provinces as well as Kampong Speu.
“This company has been doing its business for years without crackdown and with the government’s armed forces to help protect it,” the report notes.
Illegal deforestation and transport has seen a marked increase since the campaign period, CCFC coordinator Theng Savoeun said. “The government has to urge its officials … to not collaborate with businesspeople for their own benefit. They have to arrest those traders and jail them,” he said.
“Our statement is for the government to get all the information. If they still do not take action, we will bring the communities to prevent [the illegal logging] themselves.”
The group boasts thousands of grassroots activist members across the country and has been behind a number of large-scale patrols in Prey Lang forest.
Kim San, a supervisor at Try Pheap Import Export’s concession in Preah Vihear’s Rovieng district, said the report falsely “painted” an image of illegal activity.
“The company has received an economic land concession from the government, and we pay taxes to the state. One day, I will invite NGO officials to see the company. Don’t just paint it,” he said.
The embattled Timber Green logging firm in Koh Kong, which was being investigated by conservationist Chut Wutty when he was shot dead last year, is also listed among the companies illegally logging. In the report, the groups claim the company continues to illegally log outside the Stung Tatai dam catchment area, for which it held a clearing licence.
Khieu Sarsileap, chairwoman of the board of directors, could not be reached for comment. Nor could TTY director-general Na Marady, deputy director-general Heng Sarath and officials at Binh Phuoc Rubber I and II, all of whom were similarly fingered for illegal logging in Kratie’s Snuol district.
Kratie Provincial Governor Sar Chamrong denied the allegations, saying most NGO reports simply reverse the truth.
“The legal timber transportation is allowed, but the illegal one is cracked down on. We have always done it like this.”
But Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said the report echoed his own organisation’s findings that illegal deforestation had rapidly increased to the point where it “could not be controlled”.
Chheng Kimsun, director-general of the Forestry Administration, refused to speak when a reporter contacted him.