Monitor Urges Expulsion of Timber Company

The government’s independent forestry monitor has urged officials to expel the largest timber com­­pany working in Cambodia for what it says are violations of the nationwide moratorium on cut­ting trees.

Officials at Global Witness say they found evidence in March and April that the Pheapimex logging company, which has logging rights to more than 1 million hect­ares, violated the moratorium in Kom­pong Thom province.

An aerial survey in March of Pheapimex’s operations found evidence of recent logging, in­cluding a stockpile of more than 100 logs, Global Witness reported. On a field trip in early April, in­vestigators discovered 142 freshly cut, unmarked logs.

Logs are supposed to be marked and inventoried because the government collects a royalty payment on each log cut.

The call to expel Pheapimex comes less than a week after Prime Minister Hun Sen an­nounced that he had canceled the con­tract of the second-largest timber company in Cambodia, Grand Atlantic Timber Inter­national of Malaysia, for cutting too many trees.

Global Witness congratulated the government for the cancellation of the GAT contract, but said the move was partly due to un­precedented pressure from the international community in the days before last week’s donor’s meeting. “By canceling GAT, the prime minister sent a clear message to the donors that the government still needs their money. By canceling Pheapimex, and other such pestilent companies, he would be sending a clear message illegal logging is no longer acceptable,” said Global Witness Director Jon Buckrell in a statement. Global Witness, the UK-based environmental watchdog, was appointed by the government in 1999 to monitor logging after IMF officials demanded it.

A new report from Global Wit­ness, “Deforestation without limits,” recommends that the government eliminate corruption with­in the Department of For­estry and Wildlife where, according to Global Witness, some officials allow illegal logging to continue because they have been bribed.

“In most instances it is inconceivable that the authorities are unaware that these companies are logging illegally,” the report said. Global Witness said based on a 2000 ADB review of the concessionaires, all of the 17 timber companies still working in Cam­bodia have violated their contracts.

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