Agriculture Minister Showcases Captured Logs

kien svay district, Kandal pro­vince – Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor led reporters and in­ter­national-aid officials to a pile of confiscated logs here Tuesday—part of an effort to show the government is serious about illegal logging.

The cache, officials said, represented four boatloads or 1,500 cubic meters of logs seized two weeks ago while en route from Kratie province to Vietnam.

“We have put in a strict measure…and we must seize illegally cut logs from everywhere,” Tao Seng Huor told reporters at the pile of confiscated timber.

But no arrests were made of the “armed smugglers” and two boats escaped the crackdown when their operators were tip­ped off, officials acknowledged.

Also in attendance Tuesday to view the seized logs were officials from Asian Development Bank, the UN Development Pro­gram and the UN Food and Agri­culture Organization.

The In­ternational Monetary Fund cut off loans to Cambodia in 1996, in large part because of corruption in the timber industry.

Tao Seng Huor last week or­der­ed a nationwide halt to the trans­portation, purchase and sale of logs harvested illegally. En­vironmental watchdogs cautiously welcomed the order, but they noted that similar logging crackdowns have been promised in the past.

Environmental officials claim that roughly $200 million worth of illegally cut logs were harvested during the last dry season, put­ting the country at risk of de­pleting its commercially valuable trees within five years.

Tao Seng Huor said Tuesday that “rogue” armed loggers are now cutting trees in concession areas in the northern provinces of Kratie and Stung Treng. He said that he has ordered the forestry departments in those provinces to work closely with provincial authorities and RCAF solders to halt the illegal activities.

A government conservation official also recently reported that illegal logging has increased at Bokor National Park in southern Cambodia, a month after a European Commission-funded project to protect and develop the park ended.



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