Forestry Administration officials on Friday confiscated 1,000 pieces of luxury wood on land belonging to a Vietnamese rubber company that has been repeatedly accused of illegal logging in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district, local officials and human rights workers said Sunday.
Romash Svat, a representative of some 300 ethnic Jarai families living in Paknhai commune’s Lom village, said the huge stockpile was discovered inside a 6,000-hectare rubber concession belonging to the Vietnamese-owned Company 72 during a routine forestry patrol on Wednesday.
“I don’t know who owns the wood, but it was probably going to be transported to Vietnam through [unofficial] checkpoints,” said Mr. Svat, who led the patrol that uncovered the illegal haul.
“We called Adhoc to tell them about the wood, and they came and took pictures at the scene, then called the provincial Forestry Administration,” he said.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that each of the exactly 1,000 pieces of luxury-grade Thnong wood, a protected species of teak, measured 1.2 meters long by 40 cm in diameter.
District governor Dork Sar said Sunday that Company 72 has denied having anything to do with the latest seizure of luxury wood on its land.
“We called the company and asked about the wood because we suspected it was theirs, but they denied this,” Mr. Sar said.
Phan Phoeun, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration in Ratanakkiri, said his officials arrived at the company’s land on Friday and spent the following two days transporting the logs to the forestry administration’s office in neighboring Bakeo district.
“We are trying to find the owner of the wood, so we can fine them for illegal logging and send them to the [provincial] court to be tried according to the law,” Mr. Phoeun said.
Adhoc and local officials have accused Company 72 of illegal logging, with impunity, on a grand scale in Ratanakkiri since July 2012.
Despite Adhoc and local groups calling on the government to cancel the firm’s economic land concession, which was granted in early 2012, the firm has continued its work without hindrance from Cambodian authorities.
On December 23, the provincial court charged seven Vietnamese nationals with illegally crossing the border and logging on Company 72’s land. The company said the men, who are still in pretrial detention, were not their employees.
Pen Bonnar, senior investigator for Adhoc, said firms such as Company 72 are able to log luxury wood with impunity because they are colluding with the Cambodian armed forces and local officials who share in the profits from the illegal logging trade.
“The companies [holding economic land concessions], the army and the officials are together illegally logging in this province.”
“Not only a thousand [logs]…but millions of logs are exported to Vietnam without stop,” he said.