Forest Monitor Blames Courts For Backlog

The Forestry Administration’s fight against forestry-related crimes is being undermined by the judicial system, where cases have re­main­ed unresolved for years, the government’s forestry watch­dog said in a report released Wednes­day.

In its first quarter report for 2005, Societe Generale de Surveillance, the Swiss accounting firm which took over the role of forest monitor from Global Wit­ness almost two years ago, found that 640 such cases are still waiting for court action.

“We’ve noticed the forestry ad­ministration is working hard, build­ing up cases, and then they sort of die,” said SGS forestry project manager Robert Tennent. “It’s time we started looking at the courts.”

SGS spent most of the quarter monitoring the transport of hundreds of old logs that were exempted from a moratorium on moving logs imposed in Decem­ber 2001, en­suring companies were following the plans they had laid out for the government.

“We didn’t detect any instances of wrongdoing,” Tennent said.

SGS also flew over several land concessions, including the 315,000-hectare Pheapimex concession in Pursat and Kompong Chhnang province.

The report admitted SGS “is un­aware of the precise conditions of the [Pheapimex] concession grant, but…careful planning will be re­quired to avoid plantation activities disrupting the lives of local inhabitants.”

The report goes on to say a large proportion of the concession area is already dedicated to supporting livelihoods for a large population in the area.

Mike Davis of Global Witness said there was nothing new in the report, which he described as both vague and stating the obvious.

“There’s no new insight,” he said, adding that he felt SGS was trying to avoid contradicting the government and, as a result, had produced a “useless” report.

“What it comes back to is wheth­er this is worth $425,000 a year,” Davis said, referring to the amount SGS is paid. “What they’re really do­ing is parroting what [the for­es­try administration and Environ­ment Ministry] tell them.”


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