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Piles of cut logs rotting on border

Piles of cut logs rotting on border

K RATIE - About 800,000 cubic meters of cut logs are sitting rotting in Kratie province along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, according to provincial governor Nou Phoeung.

The timber - most of which was owned by the police, military or illegal private loggers - had been mounting up since 1992 in Snoul district.

Vietnamese officials' refusal to allow the logs to be exported there - a policy in force since UNTAC banned logging exports during the elections - was causing the stockpiles.

The governor said the Cambodian government had since approved the exporting of the timber, but the Vietnamese had still not opened the border.

Some of the timber had been smuggled into Vietnam, while other, legally-cut logs were being exported to Singapore and Malaysia.

Po Sarith, a Snoul district official, said logging was still continuing at a face pace.

An NGO worker in Kratie, who would not be named, said the province's forests were in danger of being wiped out by such large-scale logging.

He said local military officers allowed illegal logging to continue. "They have the weapons; they give the permission."

Phoeung denied that his officers would give official permission for the cutting and transporting of logs, saying only the Ministry of Agriculture could do that.

But it was hard to stop people who were determined to carry out logging.

"Not only the military, even the farmers can log even though they have no permission."

He said some of the logging was done in Khmer Rouge areas, and truckers who transported the timber paid the rebels in food, medicines or even guns.

"This is very dangerous for our government."

Phoeung said about 60 percent of the logging of Kratie forests was done by three foreign companies, while 52 local firms cut an estimated 50,000 cubic meters each year.

Government sources said that twenty to 30 per cent of timber exports from the area were illegal.

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