Global Witness Says Illegal Logging Persists Problem

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.”

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