They may be old logs, but plans to move 3,518 pieces of timber cut before the 2002
logging ban have sparked new protests from logging watchdog Global Witness.
Responding to media reports that the World Bank was backing a Forestry Administration
proposal to transport logs stockpiled by commercial concessionaires Samraong and
Colemix, Global Witness urged the World Bank to reconsider.
"The World Bank would be better advised to demand Samraong and Colemix's prosecution,
rather than handing them the opportunity to make a profit from their illegal activities,"
wrote Global Witness campaigner Mike Davis, in a July 22 letter to the World Bank.
However, the WB's Kimberly Versak, external affairs officer, issued a clarifying
statement on July 29:
"In late April the Government of Cambodia sought comments - not approval - from
the donor community on a decision that they had apparently already taken to allow
transport of 3,518 inventoried pieces under the supervision of the forest crime monitor,
"We feel our responsibility is to provide clear indications of the understood
risks and, in the event Government decides to go forward with this, clearly indicate
the measures to be taken to mitigate these risks to the maximum extent possible.
"This view was communicated officially to Government in May by the Working Group
[on Natural Resources Management]."
Forestry and the concessionaire system have been key, and consistently controversial,
parts of WB work in Cambodia.
A previous WB-assisted attempt to move logs from Colemix's rubber plantation in Tumring
commune, Kampong Thom, was knocked back last year by the government on the basis
that it was "incorrectly negative on the manner of the Tumring development,"
The recent push to cash in on the stockpiled timber was initiated by the concessionaires,
said Robert Tennent, Forestry Project Manager for SGS on July 29. "They want
either the wood or their money back," he said.
The Forestry Administration (FA) provided SGS with a list of logs totalling approximately
12,000 cubic meters, mostly from Colexim's Tumring rubber plantation, as well as
their stamp codes, location and destination.
"There was some discussion that if this works they might move some of the confiscated
timber," said Tennent, referring to what he described as "tremendous stores
of timber" seized by the FA and now slowly rotting at sites across the country.
The idea of transporting "old logs" is a particularly emotive one for conservationists,
who say it has been used as a cover for much of the illegal logging in the past decade.
"In 1998, a study that the World Bank commissioned found that 'old log collection'
accounted for more than 90 per cent of (illegal) harvesting in Cambodia," Davis
As the WB defended its position on transporting logs and affirmed a committment to
working with NGOs, Global Witness released a statement attacking the international
aid bank, saying it is desperate to justify industrial logging in Cambodia and is
holding back crucial reforms to the sector.
Global Witness pointed to the recent recommendation from the Independent Forest Sector
Review (funded by donors including the World Bank) that the moratorium on logging
be upheld, the concessionaire system be scrapped and a community management scheme
"[The World Bank] is perpetuating a system that is dedicated to rent capture
by corrupt officials and their business associates, and which offers no accountability
to forest users and inhabitants," said the July 29 Global Witness statement.
"It is advocating another quarter century of mismanagement which Cambodia's
forests will not survive."