Vietnamese customs data showing that Cambodia exported at least $121 million of wood this year are currently being investigated by government officials, according to Environment Ministry Undersecretary of State Eang Sophalleth.
“I forwarded it to the departments responsible and they are verifying the numbers,” Sophalleth said yesterday.
Officials from both departments – Customs and Excise and the Forestry Administration – were unable to confirm yesterday whether their offices had received the data.
Preap Kol, country director for Transparency International, said in an email that if the Vietnamese customs data are accurate, it signifies that the government’s January ban on timber exports to Vietnam “has not been effective” and signified widespread corruption demanding investigation.
“One can only assume that customs officers and competent authorities . . . allowed this trade to pass through their gates and [avoid] scrutiny in exchange for bribes or permission from powerful figures,” Kol said. “It is possible for the Government to investigate this case . . . and identify the customs officers responsible,” he continued.
“Once they have found out what happened, they should inform the public and hold the implicated officials to account.”
NGO Environmental Investigation Agency senior forest campaigner Jago Wadley said in an email that Vietnam should also take responsibility by prohibiting trade in illegally logged timber and requiring greater due diligence from importers, among other measures.
“We do not see any intention from Vietnam to prohibit illegal timber as described in our [recommendation],” he added.