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Tycoon back in firing line

Logs of rosewood in Preah Vihear province that the CCHR alleges were felled on orders from Try Pheap and under the protection of local authorities
Logs of rosewood in Preah Vihear province that the CCHR alleges were felled on orders from Try Pheap and under the protection of local authorities. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Tycoon back in firing line

For the second time in as many weeks, an NGO has accused tycoon Try Pheap of facilitating illegal logging in a protected forest during the election campaign and post-election period, and with the protection of authorities.

In a report set to be released today by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, the group claims to have evidence of rampant illegal logging in Preah Vihear province at the behest of the powerful oknha.

“The trees in those areas are not logged by tycoon Try Pheap, they are logged by locals and concerned authorities. But the person who is responsible is Try Pheap, because all the trees cut out of the forest are protected by the authorities … and they are bought by Try Pheap,” said senior researcher Chim Savuth, who wrote the report.

Savuth said he had trailed the company for months and seen illegal logging take place on a daily basis since the start of July.

At least a hundred cubic metres of timber illegally felled in protected areas of Boeung Per Wildlife sanctuary are delivered to Try Pheap’s legal warehouses daily, said Savuth, after which his trucks deliver them elsewhere.

Nearly all of the formerly protected sanctuary was reclassified and divvied up for ELCs several years ago, leaving just small areas protected. Those remaining areas, however, are increasingly threatened, said Savuth.

“If the government does not take immediate action, all forest north of Prey Lang will see the entire supply of th’nong [luxury wood] disappear within two months,” Savuth said.

Regularly, the movement is done with the assistance of Forestry Administration officers, Savuth maintained, who brought wood to their office, where it was picked up by Try Pheap’s trucks. “Preventing deforestation is not a difficult thing for government to deal with if the government is willing to do so conscientiously, because the forestry laws are enough for preventing those crimes.

After receiving the information, the government [should] ask for investigation first, and if the government does not know the area, I will show them,” he said.

Spokesmen for Try Pheap could not be reached for comment yesterday, but a man who answered the tycoon’s phone and declined to give his name denied that any illegal actions had taken place.

“If there is an allegation [of wrongdoing], the police can work on it legally. But our company will not be responsible for every crime [done at the lower level], because the manager in that area is responsible. And in Preah Vihear, Ouk Kim San is the manager,” he said.

Kim San, a former Forestry Administration official who was busted in 2009 trying to smuggle two truckloads of illegal luxury timber into Vietnam, could not be reached for comment.

Preah Vihear provincial forestry administration director Pol Kham Nare could not be reached for comment. His deputy director, Lem Moa, declined to address the allegations, saying he was in a meeting when told about the subject and later saying he was not qualified to answer the question.

Last week, a pair of local NGOs released a similar report, saying that at least a dozen companies, including those owned by Try Pheap and other prominent developers, had undertaken rampant illegal logging during the past two months.

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