E NVIRONMENTAL group Global Witness will be taking further damning evidence of
Thai business involvement with the Khmer Rouge to Washington, D.C. to lobby
The London-based NGO is confident that their
evidence will increase the behind-the-scenes pressure that Washington is said to
have been exerting on Bangkok over allegations of Thai dealings with the
outlawed Khmer Rouge.
"The Thais have always denied these charges, and
everyone has just accepted their excuses," Global Witness investigator Simon
Taylor said. "They simply can't sit back and deny it now. Nor can any other
"The United States has legislation that allows the President to
sanction any country or organization that deals with the Khmer Rouge... we are
confident we can get our information on [Secretary of State] Warren
Taylor said Global Witness had evidence enough to
prove that the Thais were not only dealing with an illegal organization, but as
signatories to the Paris Peace Accords "were meddling in the internal affairs of
He said the Foreign Office in London had told Global
Witness that they believed the Thais were sincere about closing their border to
KR trade. "We will be going back to them to ask what they are going to do about
it now," he said.
"The members of the [UN] Security Council should be
interested in this issue," he said.
The NGO had a copy of a permit,
signed by Thai Interior Minister Sana Khajornprasart, allowing Thai company Chao
Praya Akanay to import 30,000 cubic meters of logs from Cambodia.
directly contravenes the Thai border closure and the Cambodian log ban. [Chao
Praya Akanay] admits to paying off the Khmer Rouge, and the husband of the
company's manager is a Thai Army lieutenant stationed near Nuan Sung," Taylor
Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai - in response to the second
report Global Witness has published on the illegal timber trade between Cambodia
and Thailand - denied the claims.
Leekpai was quoted by The Nation as
saying: "If we knew logs were coming from the Khmer Rouge, we would not allow
them in." And Thai Army Commander-in-Chief General Wimol Wongawanich said: "We
are talking about logs, not toothpicks. How can we hide them in a
Global Witness investigator Patrick Alley said that the Thai
government was either ill-informed or deliberately misleading the
"(Wimol) is right, logs aren't toothpicks. If it is so easy for
us to visit border areas and see hundreds of trucks loaded with logs coming in
from Cambodia, how is it they (the Thai authorities) can't?" he
Alley said that the NGO was prepared to give the Thai authorities
all its evidence, which include tapes of Thai businessmen discussing paying the
KR for passage, documents, photographs and videos. All the same evidence will be
presented to politicians in the United States.
Fall-out from the NGO's
efforts to lobby Washington is also likely to effect Phnom Penh. "We do not want
to stop international aid (to Cambodia), in fact we recognize the need to
increase it," Alley said. "But why should the ICORC countries continue to
Global Witness wanted the illicit Thai/Cambodian border
trade stopped, he said.
Taylor said: "We are not Westerners telling the
Thais to do this or that... at the end of the day we are just asking the Thais
to do what they say they are doing, and close their border."
continue to monitor the Thai border "and in future we are going to be looking at
claims that the Cambodian government is getting more logs out through Vietnam
and Laos," Alley said.
The NGO's second investigation, in May this year,
found that the Chao Phraya Irrawaddy Company had unloaded about 3,800 logs from
Koh Kong at the Map Ta Phut deep sea port near Rayong.
harbour in Trat was unloading about 1,000 Cambodian logs a week, in direct
contravention of the logging ban, they said.
The NGO evidenced more
contraventions, of hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of timber being freshly
cut under Cambodian government concession and in Khmer Rouge controlled areas.
The logs were transported by road across the border, despite the Thai
government's pledge, they said. The areas were from Ban Hat Lek to
Aranyaprathet; Nuan Sung and Bo Rai in Trat; and Pong Nam Ron in
Thai companies said the Cambodian government took about $95
per cubic meter of timber in tax. Depending on the timber quality, a cubic meter
could sell for up to $1,000, Alley said.
Global Witness estimates that
the Khmer Rouge revenue alone would be "tens of millions" each month.
Cambodian government appeared to be sincere in its efforts to ban timber exports
to Thailand, despite corruption among local officials in Koh Kong and at border
check points, the NGO report said.
Illegal trade would continue unless
Thailand clamps down on the activities of its private businesses, it said, and
fully cooperated with the Cambodian government to enforce the ban.
not in Thailand's interest to do an environmental hatchet job on it's neighbor.
Environmental destruction doesn't recognize national borders, and Thailand will
be just as affected as Cambodia will be, and for what? Just the vested interest
of maybe 60 companies," Taylor said.