Sugar Plantation Caught Again with Illegal Wood

Authorities in Kompong Speu province on Wednesday seized more than 1,000 logs on the property of a Chinese-owned sugarcane plantation, marking the third time the firm has been found with illicit timber in the past year.

Local officials offered no explanation for why the plantation’s on-site sawmill was still operating after the previous seizures.

Bun Vichet, deputy governor of Oral district, said authorities raided the plantation, located inside the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary, in the morning and found 1,039 logs of first-grade wood, each between 3 and 4 meters long.

“We spent two weeks investigating this, and we saw trucks transporting the wood to Yellow Great Field this morning and we found a big pile of logs inside the plantation,” he said.

The Yellow Field and Great Field plantations abut each other in Oral district, but there is no single Yellow Great Field company, according to Commerce Ministry records.

Mr. Vichet said no one was arrested, but the sawmill was shut down and 20 chainsaws were confiscated.

“Yellow Great Field must be responsible for the wood because the wood was found on the company’s property,” he said. “We will call the company representative for questioning about the wood. If we find that the company is involved, we will file a complaint and send it to court.”

Cheng Khov, a translator for the plantation, claimed that the logs belonged to another company, which he identified as PSKV.

He said the plantation had a deal with PSKV allowing the latter to use the sawmill to turn its wood into furniture. He said only his boss, who was out of the country, could provide details about the deal, but denied any responsibility on the plantation’s part.

“Yellow Great Field is not responsible for the wood because we signed a contract giving PSKV the right to run the sawmill to process the wood,” he said.

Mr. Cheng identified PSKV’s general manager as Meng Kry. Mr. Kry declined to comment.

The plantation has been a repeat offender, according to authorities.

Provincial environment department officers seized some 10 cubic meters of illegally logged wood on Yellow Field’s property in June. District police helped catch the plantation laundering about 1,000 logs through its sawmill last year.

Mr. Vichet, the deputy district governor, said he did not know about the company’s past infractions because he was new to the job.

Yon Yuvakrith, who runs the Forestry Administration’s cantonment overseeing the area, referred questions to the head of the administration’s triage in Oral, Taing Chanseman, who could not be reached.

Provincial environment department director Keat Raingsey, who is responsible for the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary, declined to comment and hung up on a reporter.

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