Rosewood Seizures Drop in Banteay Meanchey: Gov’t

The government says it seized less rosewood from illegal loggers in Banteay Meanchey province in 2014 than the year before thanks to stricter enforcement, following a meeting Wednesday to review its anti-logging activities in the area.

Illegal loggers regularly sneak into neighboring Thailand from Banteay Meanchey to fell precious—and internationally protected—rosewood trees and are regularly shot, sometimes fatally, by Thai security forces in the process.

Chea Phally, head of the Forestry Administration’s Banteay Meanchey cantonment, said regional and national officials met in the province to review their efforts to stop the deadly trade.

As a result of enhanced efforts by the government, Mr. Phally said, both the number of cases and amount of seized wood in the province fell last year. He said authorities seized 7 cubic meters of rosewood in 11 cases in 2014, a marked decline from the 30 cubic meters they seized in 13 cases the year before.

“We have seen that the transport of rosewood has decreased, and we hope that the activity will be eliminated in the next few years as we strengthen our forces,” he said.

Provincial government and Agriculture Ministry officials also attended the meeting.

Suom Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, which monitors illegal logging, said he was skeptical that the illicit trade had subsided as much as Mr. Phally claimed—if at all.

“We see that rosewood crime has not decreased because the rosewood dealers are crossing the province every day and every night,” he said.

“[The authorities] know the identity of the dealers but they do not arrest them,” he added. “I think the authorities arrested the dealers once in a while because the dealers did not pay [them bribes].”

It is illegal to log, stockpile, transport or export rosewood in Cambodia.

In a recent report, however, U.K.-based environmental watchdog Global Witness said a team of undercover investigators found evidence of companies owned by timber magnate Try Pheap conspiring with government and military officials to log and export vast quantities of rosewood and other protected species to China.

Government officials and representatives for Mr. Pheap denied the claims.

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