Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More timber burns in Mondulkiri as NGO calls for answers

More timber burns in Mondulkiri as NGO calls for answers

Logs smolder at an economic land concession in Mondulkiri earlier this month. Photo supplied
Logs smolder at an economic land concession in Mondulkiri earlier this month. Photo supplied

More timber burns in Mondulkiri as NGO calls for answers

Timber stockpiles in two former Mondulkiri economic land concessions went up in flames over the past few days, with authorities blaming forest fires, an explanation one observer characterised as an “excuse”.

The ELCs had their licences withdrawn in 2014 for breaching their operating conditions. One formerly belonged to Kasekam Khmer Angkor Agriculture and the other, to Investment & Development Dai Nam (Cambodia). Since then, tycoons Try Pheap and Lim Bunna have been granted the right to collect wood at the two sites, according to the Ministry of Environment.

The fires follow the burning of a timber cache last week on the land of Vietnamese company Binh Phuoc I. According to Mondulkiri military police commander Sak Saraing, the Binh Phuoc I fire may have been set deliberately, but the latest two fires were an act of nature. “No one set fire to it; it was caused by the forest fire. It is the windy season and the fire spread to the timber pile,” he said.

The commander could not estimate the amount of timber burned. He said that he and his forces spent all of yesterday trying to put out the fire and keep it from spreading.

But Sok Rotha, the Mondulkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, regarded the commander’s explanation as “an excuse aiming to take no responsibility”.

“It’s too much of a coincidence,” he said. “A forest fire would not spread to the timber pile, because they are very careful and security is strict . . . It is impossible.”

Despite the ELCs’ licence revocation, timber continued to be gathered at both sites, according to Rotha.

The Cambodian Center for Human Rights on Tuesday sent a letter to Environment Minister Say Samal, asking him to explain why the two ELCs were “reallocated” to Try Pheap and Lim Bunna in violation of the May, 2012, moratorium on ELCs in the Kingdom.

“I want to ask the Ministry of Environment to kindly explain the offer of land concession,” wrote Chak Sopheap, CCHR executive director. “If it is not a new economic land concession offer, please offer information about the rights of [Pheap’s and Bunna’s] companies and guarantee that there is no new logging.”

Sao Sopheap, spokesman for the ministry, denied that the tycoons got any new land concessions, and said that they are legally allowed to pick up leftover timber at both sites.

“Timber is rampantly piled over there and the ministry allowed the two companies to collect the forestry products for checking over and paying tax to the government,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hun Sen ready to ‘break record’, says Rainsy lost

    Caretaker prime minister Hun Sen used a meeting with 18,400 factory workers on Wednesday to predict that he would beat the record for being the world’s longest-serving non-royal leader. He also used the platform to slam political opponent Sam Rainsy who he said had lost

  • Sihanoukville land prices skyrocketing amid breakneck development

    Sihanoukville, the Kingdom’s most famous beach destination for tourists, is seemingly becoming a paradise for Chinese investors as well. The huge influx of Chinese investors has caused property values to rise, especially the price of land, which has nearly doubled in some places near

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by