Officials: Large-Scale Illegal Logging Over

Officials from five provinces reported Monday that large-scale illegal logging has stopped but smaller logging practices by local villagers still persists.

Their unofficial progress report comes less than one month be­fore the Consultative Group meeting of donors assembles in Phnom Penh to discuss donor pledges and allocations for 2003.

“The illegal logging in Bat­tam­bang is no more because people are aware of the law,” said Tong Perom, chief of the Department of Agriculture in Battambang prov­ince. Officials from Ratana­kkiri, Mondolkiri, Stung Treng and Preah Vihear provinces also said illegal logging has stopped.

In Preah Vihear, for example, there is still some illegal logging but it’s usually done by locals who use the wood to build houses, said Yeom Chan, chief of Preah Vihear provincial agriculture department.

On Dec 11, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that all logging concessions would be halted on Jan 1 and ordered that all logging companies assess the environmental and socio-economic impact of their operations before they received new concessions.

Despite the ban, a Global Wit­ness official said Monday that the organization has documented cases of illegal logging by the military, and to a lesser extent local officials, in Rat­anakkiri and Bat­tam­bang. Their information on illegal logging was last updated about two months ago.

Yeom Chan, however, said people may see logs being transported to Phnom Penh or Sihanouk­ville because the logs were cut in 2001, before the ban took effect. He conceded that “the department doesn’t control loggers because we don’t have the funds.”

In Ratanakkiri, most large-scale illegal logging practices have stopped but smaller logging practices still exist deep in the forest, said Chhay Veth, chief of the Ratanak­kiri Agricultural Depart­ment.

Also, the local hill tribes in Ratanakkiri still perform slash-and-burn agriculture, and “as the number of tribes increase, so does the cutting of trees,” Chhay Veth said.

The local authorities are trying to provide tribes with new places to live and does not allow them to continue cutting down trees, Chhay Veth said.

Similar small-scale illegal logging practices have been reported in Mondolkiri and Stung Treng, where hill tribe villagers or locals cut small areas for agriculture or to get wood for furniture, said officials from both prov­inces.



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