Lawmakers Accuse Tycoons of Illegal Logging

CNRP lawmakers have written to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking him to stop the ongoing illegal logging of northeast Cambodia’s Virachey National Park, which they said they witnessed during a recent trip and blamed on businessmen An Mady and Try Pheap.

Mao Monivann and more than 10 fellow CNRP lawmakers were traveling through the protected area in Ratanakkiri province on June 9 on the way to a disputed stretch of the Cambodia-Vietnam border when, they said, they saw the loggers at work, allegedly for Mr. Mady and Mr. Pheap.

“We saw the Try Pheap and An Mady companies illegally logging in the forest and transporting wood anarchically from the forest,” the July 8 letter read.

“If the government doesn’t take action to stop them this in time, the forest in Virachey Park will disappear completely in the near future,” it added. “Please, Samdech Prime Minister, review our request and take action to protect the forest in Virachey Park.”

The letter was sent to Mr. Hun Sen via National Assembly President Heng Samrin, who stamped the letter the day it was sent.

Mr. Monivann said Thursday that he had yet to receive a reply and did not know whether the letter had reached the prime minister.

He said the loggers the lawmakers met on their trip through Virachey National Park told them they were working for the two businessmen.

“When we asked the people who were cutting the trees inside the forest, they told us they worked for the Try Pheap and An [Mady] companies,” he said, adding that they also saw the loggers transporting their logs to a pair of sawmills, also allegedly owned by the businessmen.

Officials in Mr. Hun Sen’s cabinet and Mr. Samrin’s office could not be reached for comment.

In a statement issued Wednesday by Try Pheap Import Export, one of Mr. Pheap’s firms, the company denied the lawmakers’ allegations and suggested that the loggers might have been invoking his name for cover.

“The Try Pheap company wishes to reject the accusations from the politicians and some media. The allegations against the company are not true because we are not involved in deforestation in Virachey Park,” the statement said. “The company wishes to appeal to authorities to take action in accordance with the law against anyone who uses the name of the company to break the law.”

Contacted by telephone, Mr. Mady hung up on a reporter.

Both businessmen have been granted vast land concessions across the country for the official purpose of developing rubber plantations, including two each in Virachey National Park that the lawmakers passed last month.

Mr. Pheap returned his two concessions in the park to the government in December, claiming the soil was too rocky for growing rubber trees. Mr. Mady’s two concessions in the park have since been re-registered under new directors but are still believed to be owned by his relatives.

Mr. Pheap has been dogged by allegations of illegal logging for many years.

During a trip to Virachey National Park in late 2013, Cambodia Daily reporters met loggers illegally harvesting luxury-grade timber who claimed to be working for Mr. Pheap.

In February, U.K.-based environmental rights group Global Witness released the results of a monthslong undercover investigation that found illegal loggers working for Mr. Pheap in Virachey and elsewhere. The group said its investigators saw the loggers transporting wood to depots and sawmills the businessman owns.

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