Thai Gov’t to Investigate Log-Export Deal

The Thai government has reiterated its pledge to prevent illegal log imports from Cambodia and has promised to investigate a current alleged deal.

The pledge follows a report by the environmental watchdog Global Witness saying that a Cambodian for­estry company is trying to export about $50 million worth of illegal logs into Thailand through Laos.

“Thailand has no policy to support such illegal activities, and the government is trying to find out which of the Thai business groups is involved,” Thai Prime Min­ister Chuan Leekpai was quoted as saying in The Bangkok Post.

A statement issued Friday by the Thai Foreign Minister’s of­­fice also restated the government’s commitment to prevent logs from entering Thailand from Cambo­dia.

Global Witness claims that 100,000 cubic meters of timber cut in Stung Treng province are being trucked to the Lao border for eventual passage to Thailand.

As of late May, the group said, about 8,500 cubic meters had crossed the border into Laos.

“Laos is deliberately flouting their commitment to prevent illegal log imports from Cambodia, and both Cambodia and Laos will try to dupe Thailand into believing the logs are from Laos,” Glo­bal Witness Director Patrick Al­ley said in a statement last week.

The London-based group said it had written to Thai officials to warn them.

A Soudachanh, the charge d’affaires at the Laotian Embassy in Phnom Penh, said Monday that he only knows about the allegation from reading about it in the newspaper.

“I have no information from Laos,” he said. “It’s an important issue, and I’d like to know [more about] it.” He said Laos’ official policy is to respect Cambodia’s log-export ban.

Global Witness alleges that the deal has been authorized by senior government officials, and that Cambodia’s forestry officials are taking a cut of the profits.

Agriculture Minister Tao Seng Huor, who oversees the forestry department, last week denied knowledge of the deal.

 

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