Saying his political life is dependent on stopping business transactions related to illegal logging, Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the investigation of a foreign-owned furniture company that requested an export license for top-quality wood.
Hun Sen said the wood should have been declared at a higher price than $54 per cubic meter. Before granting the export license to the company, which he did not name, the prime minister said he wants the Ministry of Agriculture to determine whether the wood was cut inside of the company’s concession boundaries.
“If there is no license for export, then I am sorry,” Hun Sen said, speaking at a ceremony marking World Water and Meteorological Day on Thursday. “If I let companies export [without a license], it encourages people to go to the forest to steal logs.”
Also speaking at the ceremony, acting Minister of Agriculture Chan Tong Yves said he believed all of the company’s high-priced processed wood came from illegally felled timber. He didn’t name the company.
Speaking more on the subject of export licenses, the prime minister admonished high government officials in Preah Vihear province to stop making requests to officials in Phnom Penh about the license process.
“I would like to inform them that if they dare to ask again, they will be dropped from their rank,” Hun Sen warned.
In 1999, a report published by international environmental organizations Global Witness and Friends of the Earth stated that most of the wooden garden furniture labeled “Made in Vietnam” is made from timber that is either illegally imported from Cambodia or illegally cut in Vietnam. At the time, Cambodian government officials were believed to have been involved in the export of illegally cut timber to Vietnam.