Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Logging "shame"



Logging "shame"

Logging "shame"

The Editor,

The Government seems to have no shame when it comes to defending its destruction

of the country's forests.

In a letter to your newspaper (19 April-2 May) the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry

and Fisheries brazenly reassured your readers that the procedures for exporting timber

to Thailand are "perfectly clear and respected" and guarantee "high

respect of the law and the environment". The wood to be exported is only "old

wood" and as a guarantee the Thai companies concerned will have to show forestry

officials "the details of their dossier" thus permit-ting the Forestry

Department "to verify that it is really proved to be old wood as well as to

avoid any new wood".

All this might be reassuring were it not for three simple questions: Why was this

"perfectly clear" deal once again kept secret? How much is the Government,

its leaders, and its enemy and business partner, the Khmer Rouge, going to make from

the deal? And, most basic of all, when was all this "old wood" cut?

No problem about the last point, H.E. Tao Seng Huor asserts, because the timber to

be exported was "wood cut before the 30 April 1995 cut-off date". Can it

be that the Minister responsible for forestry does not know that the "30 April

1995 cut-off date" was for an end to timber export only? Has he somehow forgotten

that commercial logging for export has been illegal in Cambodia since the end of

1992, a ban re-affirmed by the Government in September 1993, March 1994, December

1994, and (theoretically) still in place today?!

Ever since the Supreme National Council imposed the log export moratorium on 22 September

1992, the image of thousands of "old" logs has been continually evoked

to justify exceptions. In late 1993, the Government suspended the export moratorium

on the basis that an estimated "over 200,000 cubic meters" of logs cut

before the ban were rotting near the border, primarily in Khmer Rouge areas.

The moratorium was "definitely" re-imposed on 31 March 1994, only to

be secretly broken by the two Prime Ministers less than two months later. Again,

the myth of the "old timber" rotting away was used to allow the Ministry

of Defences to illicitly issue licenses for the export of, at least, 1.3 million

cubic meters of logs to Thailand by December 1994. Faced with uniform opposition,

the Prime Ministers claimed to re-think their policy. At the end of 1994, they declared

a new moratorium on logging, despite the fact that the previous moratorium had never

been legally lifted and that they were simultaneously negotiating and giving away

huge new logging concessions. And then, again using the excuse of "old"

logs, they permitted export of timber for another four months until 30 April 1995.

Now, the Government claims that the export ban must be suspended because of this

spontaneously appearing "old wood". How much remains, H.E. Tao Seng Huor

claims not to know. This is worrying. After all, he was head of a Commission specifically

set up in July 1994 to inspect and count all felled timber. Needless to say, his

"Commission to Investigate and Examine the Problem of Unprocessed and Processed

Timber" never publicly reported its findings, if indeed it ever made any. (Again,

as Minister of Agriculture, H.E. Tao Seng Huor is responsible under the 7 Jan 1995

Government procedures for preparing a detailed annual export plan for timber to be

formally attached to the Budget revenue projection. Can he explain what's happened

to this export plan since?) Whatever the figures, it seems extremely unlikely, after

three years frantic export, that of a total of around 200,000 cubic meters of logs

about to rot, some one million cubic meters of good quality timber remain!

As any "old logs" which do remain have clearly been felled after 1992,

then that leaves only two options. Either the logs were felled illegally in Government

areas - in which case they should be seized and auctioned off by H.E. Tao Seng Huor's

Control Committee and the companies responsible should be punished. Or they were

felled in Khmer Rouge areas - in which case the companies have both violated the

logging ban and have illegally conducted business with an outlawed bandit group.

Either way, the Government must punish - not secretly do business with - foreign

companies who show a complete disregard for Cambodia's forests and its people.

That would be the way to truly guarantee "high respect of the law and of the

environment".

- Sam Rainsy, President of the Khmer Nation Party.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants