Amid Lack of Interest, More Wood Auctions Called Off

The Finance Ministry has rescheduled a trio of timber auctions that had been set to start today after a continued lack of interest from buyers, although bidding for a lot in Stung Treng province will go ahead on Wednesday as planned.

The ministry had planned to start auctioning 71,000 cubic meters of timber seized by authorities between mid-January and mid-April on June 27 in Mondolkiri province but called off the sales because too few people had applied to take part.

On Monday, Soung Mengkea, an undersecretary of state at the Finance Ministry, said three of the four auctions scheduled for this week were put off for the same reason. The auctions were to take place in the provinces of Ratanakkiri, Kratie and Tbong Khmum today, Thursday and Friday, respectively.

“But we will hold the auction in Stung Treng province on Wednesday because we have enough applicants for bidding,” he said.

The lot consists of 2,653 cubic meters of wood valued at $94,605.

Mr. Mengkea said he could not recall the names of the applicants. A ministry employee who refused to give her name identified the applicants as Song Bunsy, Sok Heng and Chea Theach. She said the applications did not list their companies.

According to a ministry statement published by local media on Monday, the week’s three canceled auctions have been rescheduled for July 26 in Ratanakkiri, July 27 in Kratie and July 28 in Tbong Khmum.

The seven auctions canceled in Mondolkiri will now run from July 18 to 22. The 71,000 cubic meters are being offered at a combined initial asking price of $14 million.

The wood was seized by authorities in coordination with a special task force that Prime Minister Hun Sen established in January to root out illegal timber stocks in the country’s eastern provinces.

The prime minister initially said the wood would be handed over to the Education Ministry for construction purposes but later changed his mind because, he said, the ministry lacked the resources to haul the timber away. The ministry will instead receive whatever money the auctions raise.

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