Forest watchdog Global Witness issued another illegal logging report Tuesday, detailing the continued cutting of trees around the Tumring rubber plantation and in the former Grand Atlantic Timber logging concession in Kompong Thom province.
Global Witness investigators on Saturday found several stockpiles of freshly cut timber awaiting transportation outside the Tumring plantation, some of which were once resin-producing, the report said.
Many local villagers formerly relied on resin-tapping as their primary source of income. Resin trees were passed down for generations until they began disappearing in recent years.
The report also stated that several chain saws could be heard buzzing throughout the forest, while residents told investigators that a bulldozer had been employed to extract the logs.
Investigators also witnessed 15- to 20-cubic-meter logs being trucked off in the direction of Phnom Penh, the report said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a moratorium on the transportation of timber in January 2002.
The report included other similar violations and photographs as evidence. Foreign observers have repeatedly addressed illegal logging and its negative impact on surrounding communities in Kompong Thom.
On Aug 22, the UN special representative for human rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, issued a report to the UN General Assembly that included his assessment of activities around Tumring.
“The social and economic impact on the local populations has been severe. The local communities were not consulted, and more than 2,000 people who previously earned their livelihood in the rice fields, tapping resin trees and collecting forest products have seen much of their forests destroyed,” Leuprecht wrote.
He added: “It is doubtful that this traditional society will have the will and skills to adjust to rubber plantation activity. Furthermore, hundreds of resin trees have been felled in breach of the Forestry Law and the government’s own condemnation of illegal logging.”
Leuprecht’s report also stated that “In spite of the moratorium, big logs fraudulently declared as firewood are driven out of the area.”
In June, the Working Group on Natural Resources Management—a group of NGOs and donor representatives that has pushed for forestry reform—sent a letter to the Minister of Agriculture condemning the developments in Tumring, which is operated by the Chhup Rubber Plantation Co.
The group wrote that because of poor prior analysis, “land clearance has run ahead of replanting, leaving large areas exposed to erosion; communities have been displaced and lost their established livelihoods…and there are other problems…that we believe threaten the viability of the entire endeavor.”
Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun responded in September, contradicting the criticisms.
“Land clearing was carried out according to a proper technical growing plan by sustaining [the] environment and to avoid leaving land area bare…exposed to erosion,” he wrote, according to an unofficial translation.
Chan Sarun also said that social welfare had been taken into account and that villagers were benefiting from new schools, roads, a health center and a pagoda. He also denied that local farmers had been displaced, saying that they “participated in supporting this project.” As for the transportation of logs, he said, the Agriculture Ministry “continues implementing moratorium of the exploitation ban and effective logs transport.”