Timber tycoon Try Pheap announced yesterday that his company would sit out the auction of some of the 70,000 cubic metres of wood seized in anti-logging crackdowns this year.
“HE Oknha Try Pheap announces [his intention] not to join the bidding on wood that has been seized from [illegal] traders,” read a post on Pheap’s Facebook page.
Pheap could not be reached for further details yesterday, but was quoted in local media as saying that he wanted to avoid public criticism. He added that many violators falsely claim to be working for his company.
Pheap was issued licences to buy timber from the government in 2013 and 2014.
Staff at Pheap’s company declined to comment, and guards turned away a reporter from the main office.
Prime Minister Hun Sen said in March that he would end timber auctions and give this year’s haul to the Ministry of Education.
But this week, he seemingly went back on that promise, saying that at least some of the 70,000 cubic metres would be put up for auction because the Ministry of Education lacks the means to transport it all, and the timber would otherwise rot.
Bidding committee chief Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin could not be reached yesterday.
Tek Vannara, director of the NGO Forum, called for transparency during the bidding process, saying that previous auctions were opaque and facilitated the illicit export of timber.
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov