Firm Granted Sawmill Permit Despite Illegal Wood Seizure

The Agriculture Ministry has granted a Chinese company that had illegally logged wood seized from its property last year permission to establish a sawmill in Kratie province, a decision that has not gone down well with the environment minister, according to officials.

Lim Royal Joint Stock Company Limited will be allowed to process wood into furniture for one year in Snuol district, according to a document dated February 9 and signed by Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon.

Environment Minister Say Sam Al, left, and police, military police and Forestry Administration officials, right

Last year, the company had about 264 cubic meters of wood confiscated from its 9,068 hectare economic land concession (ELC), according to an Economy and Finance Ministry report.

So Sovichea, a deputy prosecutor at the Mondolkiri Provincial Court, said on Sunday that the case of the wood seizure was still under investigation.

However, Mr. Sakhon, the agriculture minister, said in a telephone interview on Sunday that because the company had not been found responsible for the wood discovered on its property, it retained the right to log trees within its ELC.

The ELC was granted in 2012 to develop rubber and agricultural plantations in Mondolkiri province’s Pech Chreada district, Mr. Sakhon said, adding that Lim Royal has so far cleared more than 1,000 hectares of the ELC.

The company would be allowed to cut wood from a designated part of its ELC to use in its sawmill, he said. If it fulfilled that agreement, the firm would have the opportunity to renew its contract and log timber from the rest of its concession, he said.

Environment Minister Say Sam Al was “not happy” about the Agriculture Ministry allowing Lim Royal to open a new sawmill, according to Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap.

Mr. Sam Al “does not support the decision of the Agriculture Ministry because he is worried that logging will continue and they will transport wood to the sawmill,” he said.

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