Top officials, commune leaders, villagers, independent experts and NGOs have united in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng provinces to denounce logging plans by Pheapimex Fuchan Cambodia, now being reviewed by the Forestry Department.
The governor of Stung Treng and the first deputy governor of Ratanakkiri presided over a workshop in Banlung last week in that commune leaders and village representatives from several districts said the concessions damaged the environment and destroyed forest products villagers depended on. They demanded more community input in logging plans and establishment of protected areas where villagers could collect forest products or worship forest spirits.
First deputy governor of Ratanakkiri Chom Bun Khan forwarded the results of the workshop to Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun last week. “I have to inform the Excellency that the provincial authorities agree with the results of the seminar and the requests of the community,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, NGOs claimed that the company fabricated evidence that it had surveyed villagers about how they used the forest.
“We asked all the village leaders…all the commune leaders and no one had ever heard of anyone coming to [interview them] in their village,” said Jeremy Ironside, an agriculturist with environmental group NTFP.
The support provincial authorities gave to local leaders was “nothing new,” Ironside said. “The provincial governor and government of Ratanakkiri have been entirely supportive for a number of years for sustainable management of natural resources.”
Ironside said Pheapimex had failed to consult local authorities when they first came to log in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng.
Comments submitted by a coalition of NGOs in Ratanakkiri and Stung Treng to the government said the 25-year cutting plans showed “virtually no attempt to recognize and exclude cultural, tourism and community forestry sites from logging.”
The NGOs suggested the company was planning to cut earlier than it claimed in the plan.
Pheapimex Director Lau Meangkin “has no time” to speak to a journalist, an assistant said Tuesday and Wednesday.