The government is ordering a commercial logging company to suspend operations in Koh Kong province because of alleged illegal logging and road building in the Cardamom mountain region.
Forestry Director Ty Sokhun said Friday an inspection team recently found 777 logs illegally cut in a concession operated by GAT International of Malaysia. GAT also was building a logging road without permission, he said.
“We will complain to the court,” Ty Sokhun said. “We are now in the process of preparing all documents for the court…and we already sent a letter requesting GAT to suspend all activities immediately in that area.”
A GAT official in Phnom Penh said Friday the company was not yet prepared to comment on the case.
The Cardamoms are touted as one of Southeast Asia’s last great wilderness areas, but conservationists fear logging and wildlife poaching will ruin it before preservation efforts are in place.
Environmental watchdog Global Witness, which also serves as the government’s independent forestry monitor, said in a statement dated Thursday that the government should demonstrate its commitment to forestry reform by cancelling the GAT concession for breach of contract.
The London-based group said its aerial reconnaissance of the Cardamoms on May 26, the same day Cambodia’s foreign donors met in Paris, first “uncovered systematic illegal logging” by GAT.
Patrick Alley, a Global Witness director, said in the statement he hoped the irony of the timing would not be lost on the government and the various international donors who support neither logging-contract terminations nor a moratorium on logging.
“On the one hand, everyone agrees that the concessionaires are currently incapable of operating a concession; on the other, the same institutions are prepared to entrust Cambodia’s forests to the very companies that are conducting the illegal logging,” Alley said.
An Asian Development Bank-funded team recently recommended the termination of three nearly logged-out concessions and a moratorium in eight of the remaining 21 concession areas. The government canceled the three concessions, but had taken no further action until this week.
Global Witness said in its statement that GAT’s concession manager in Koh Kong admitted the company had cut and transported logs without permits, and had continued to construct a large logging road until May 30, despite being asked by Ty Sokhun not to do so a month earlier.
Global Witness also maintained in its statement that GAT had illegally cut logs in Samling International’s concession and that the government should also prosecute Samling for failing to protect its concession.
“GAT’s arrogance is breathtaking,” Global Witness’ Jon Buckrell said in the statement. “Not only has this company disregarded a direct request by Ty Sokhun to stop building its logging road, it has also illegally logged in a neighboring concession….”
Henry Kong, managing director of Samling in Cambodia, on Friday denied that Samling has failed to protect its concession.
“As far back as early April, we made two, three complaints to the authorities concerned and requested an investigation into this wrongdoing…and even have arranged for an inspection team to go through” the area, Kong said.
Kong, who also serves as chairman of the Cambodia Timber Industry Association, would not confirm that GAT was responsible for the illegal logging in Samling’s concession, “The position is untenable.”