Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Cheam Channy attacked a Chinese logging company Friday for allegedly cutting thousands of trees to feed a sawmill on its Kompong Speu property, saying the company has intimidated local villagers and should be shut down.
His complaint follows by at least one week a government order for the Cambodian Haining Group to halt logging while authorities investigate its castor bean oil plantation business.
“I myself and my colleagues went to examine [Haining],” he said. “At first glance it seemed to be an admirable farm but when we examined it closely, we learned that it is a forestry destruction center.”
The company operates a 23,000-hectare concession in Oral district, Kompong Speu province, granted by the government in 1998; 2 hectares are now planted with castor beans in a trial plantation, according to Cheam Channy and Global Witness, the government’s independent forestry monitor.
In a statement he distributed to National Assembly committees, Cheam Channy said he and his fellow lawmakers walked onto the land concession and found a sawmill and piles of recently cut trees behind a barn.
Cheam Channy also alleged that the company denies villagers the right to harvest vines or firewood from the forest, a right protected under the newly created Forestry Law. He urged the government to shut down the firm.
The group was already placed under investigation by forestry officials after Global Witness reported that 5,000 logs were cut on the site and were about to be milled by Pheapimex, the largest logging company in the country.
Haining has been asked to pay government royalties on the logs, royalties that run from $43 to $81 per cubic meter based on the quality of the wood, said Dennis Cengel, chief technical adviser to the Department of Forestry and Wildlife.
Cheam Channy said the government must stop Haining or be held accountable for the environmental destruction going on at the site.