Rampant illegal logging continues uninterrupted in Kompong Thom province and is aided by land concessions that are widely used to circumvent the law, UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht said Tuesday at a news briefing.
Speaking at Hotel Le Royal after his ninth evaluatory trip to the country, Leuprecht highlighted illegal logging, slow judicial reform and the practice of torture as enduring problems in Cambodia. Leuprecht said he had witnessed illegal logging practices during a recent visit to Kompong Thom, despite a moratorium announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in December 2001.
“What I’ve seen there, once again, is massive destruction of the forests,” he said, attributing much of the logging to rubber plantations. He said he had seen truckloads of big logs moving through the province falsely labeled as firewood.
The logging practices show “a huge gap between the law…and reality on the ground,” he said.
He also reported “massive logging on so-called land concessions” and noted that more than one-third of concessions exceed the maximum 10,000 hectares mandated by law.
“Concessions are being used to get around the on-paper prohibition of logging,” he said.
Leuprecht told reporters he had addressed several other issues in discussions with government officials during his week-long stay. Though he had opposed the UN agreement that allows the Cambodian judiciary to participate in the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders, Leuprecht said, “It would be in the best interest of Cambodia…to appoint the best judges possible.”
He also condemned widespread extra-judicial settlements, especially in cases of serious crimes, and urged the government to prosecute cases of torture.