Rubber Company Denies Illegal Logging

A rubber plantation in Mondolkiri province targeted by a new government task force sweeping the eastern provinces for illicit timber stocks has denied any involvement in the illegal logging trade.

The Unigreen Resources rubber farm is one of several sites authorities have visited across the eastern pro­vinces since Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the creation of the task force in mid-January and put National Military Police Com­mander Sao Sokha in charge.

In a letter to General Sokha re­leased to the media on Monday, a Uni­green representative, Lam Kim­chean, denied any illegal activity.

He said local media reports that the firm had dealings with well-known timber magnate Try Pheap or businessman Tob Viyada, or that the task force found a cache of il­legally sourced logs on its property on January 29, were all false.

“We believe those rumors are created by the real culprit in order to direct the attention to Uni­green,” he said. “We have no interest in tim­ber and no link with any timber com­pany. We only want to develop our rub­ber plantation according to our ma­ster plan, and these false ac­cu­sations have hindered our progress.”

Mr. Kimchean said authorities in­spected a pile of timber near, but not on, its plantation on January 27.

He added that the firm had actually been telling local authorities about il­legal logging taking place around it for the past two years, but to no avail.

Mr. Pheap, a frequent target of il­legal logging claims himself, is­sued his own statement last month denying reports that he had any ties to Unigreen.

Contacted on Monday, deputy Mondol­kiri governor Svay Sam Eang said authorities did indeed find logs on Unigreen’s property last month—he could not recall the exact date or amount—and sus­pected that they were felled by a company it hired to clear its land.

“Even though Unigreen denies that it is involved with the wood, it must be responsible for the wood be­cause it allowed its business part­ner to use the land to store the wood,” he said.

The spokesman for the new task force, Eng Hy, said authorities were still inspecting the logs found on Unigreen’s plantation.

“We do not yet dare to conclude that the wood is legal or illegal be­cause the task force is still investigating,” he said.

In a separate case, authorities in Stung Treng province said they found 18 cubic meters of undocumented, luxury-grade Thnong wood on Thursday inside a sawmill be­longing to a woman named Heng Samneang  and another 402 Thnong logs nearby.

“We do not dare to conclude the wood belongs to the woman be­cause it is outside the factory,” Men Kong, the province’s deputy director of administration, said on Monday.

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