The government has ordered more than 10,000 cubic meters of wood cut for the construction of the new National Assembly building in Phnom Penh, according to documents and forestry officials on Monday.
A new concession to supply the wood will be located on the site of an old Taiwanese-owned logging concession in Ratanakkiri province’s Voeun Sai, O’Chum and Taveng districts, said You Kanvimean, deputy director of the Ratanakkiri forestry administration.
“We have already found the place for cutting the trees to construct the new National Assembly building,” You Kanvimean said Monday. “Recently our forestry administration officials have been marking trees for cutting.”
You Kanvimean said he could not remember how large an area the concession will cover and although the trees marked for felling are banned from logging, You Kanvimean said they were being used for “special constructions that show the [national] identity, heritage and culture.”
Officials are currently studying the environmental and social impact of the logging concession for the Assembly building, he said, adding that a report covering these issues will be ready by the middle of July.
Funcinpec parliamentarian Khieu San said Monday there was nothing unusual in the request to supply wood for the new government building.
“It is not an illegal suggestion,” Khieu San said by telephone on Monday. “All it is going to do is serve the National Assembly’s interests.”
Construction on the roughly $20 million Assembly building began in early 2003.
According to documents obtained Monday, the Council of Ministers issued a directive on May 14, 2004, to Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun to begin preparing a special logging concession in Ratanakkiri province to provide the timber needed for the building.
CPP parliamentarian Cheam Yeap, chairman of the Assembly committee heading the construction project, sent a letter to Chan Sarun dated June 29, 2004, asking for the concession to be moved from Ratanakkiri because of the logistical difficulties in collecting wood from that province.
On March 7, 2005, Chan Sarun issued the order to the national forestry administration calling for 4,030 cubic meters of luxury wood and 6,527 cubic meters of nonluxury wood to be supplied “as fast as possible.”
On March 9, the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry administration office appointed its Ratanakkiri counterpart to prepare the concession. Chan Sarun could not be reached for comment Monday.
Mike Davis of the environmental group Global Witness said he was concerned by the large amount of wood ordered by the government for the Assembly project.
“You’re probably talking about a minimum of 5,000 trees if they follow the right procedures,” he said.