Laborers and Ministry of Agriculture officials are expanding the area in Ratanakkiri province where logging is underway to provide timber for the new National Assembly building, officials said Tuesday.
The building had required 10,000 cubic meters of wood to be taken from three communes in Ratanakkiri’s O’Chum district, but these designated sites have only yielded 8,000 cubic meters. An additional 2,000 cubic meters is now being sought in Kon Mom district’s Teun commune, said You Kanvimean, provincial forestry administration chief.
“Our experts and around 40 workers are putting steel tags and red paint on trees in Teun commune…to have them cut in the future because [the building] is lacking 2,000 cubic meters,” he said.
The timber selection should be finished by May while logging is not slated to begin until early 2007, he said.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the shortfall has occurred because officials had been selling the timber for other purposes.
“If some officials hadn’t tried to do business in these places, the timber would have been more than enough for this construction,” he said.
Provincial governor Moung Poy said Tuesday that he had not been informed about the expansion of the project.
“I didn’t know about this new place for cutting,” he said. “It depends on the National Assembly committee’s decision.”
Mike Davis of Global Witness, the government’s former forestry watchdog, wrote in an e-mail that the quantity of wood for the Assembly project is suspiciously large.
“Hypothetically, one can estimate that if all this wood was processed into rather thick (25 mm) wood paneling, this would generate about 26 hectares of paneling,” he wrote.
“Alternatively, if one imagines this paneling as used to coat walls that are three meters high, you would have enough to cover a wall 86 km long.”
(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)