Court Upholds Timber Ruling

A Malaysian logging company won a victory Monday when an appeals court upheld a provincial court ruling ordering the company to pay the government only approximately $108,000 in royalties rather than face stiff fines for logging in the Cardamom mountains.

Grand Atlantic Timber Inter­national Ltd had been accused of violating its contract with the government by illegally cutting the trees and building roads in the Cardamoms after an investigation in May by watchdog Global Witness found the company had been logging outside its concession.

But the appeals court said GAT gathered the 777 logs only in its concession area to build a road.

Ing Ou, director of the office of legislation and litigation at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Depart­ment of Forestry, said the government will send a complaint to the Supreme Court. “GAT did not have a permit to cut these trees,” he said. “They were illegally cut logs…but the court’s ruling means that illegally cut logs have now become legally cut logs.”

Goh Chieh, director of GAT in Cambodia, was unavailable for comment. Henry Kong, director of the Cambodian Timber Industry Association, said he had only just heard of the ruling and was unprepared to discuss it. Kong is also managing director of Samling, the timber company whose concession borders GAT’s and was allegedly violated when GAT cut the logs.

A Koh Kong provincial court ruled in June that GAT had not violated its government contract and ordered it to pay only $54 per cubic meter for 2,000 cubic meters of logs—the same a­mount the company would have had to pay had it cut the logs with permission. One NGO official said the logs are worth from $200 to $300 per cubic meter.

Correction: A Dec 18 story “Early 2002 New Goal for Com­mune Election” (page 1) incorrectly identified Chhay Kim. He is a member of the National Election Commission, but not the chairman.




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