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.”