Logging plans submitted by companies to the government are plagued by widespread “inaccuracies and false claims” and represent only “a token attempt” to obey the law, Cambodia’s official logging watchdog plans to tell the government today.
Global Witness also contends that eight of the 13 plans are written either by Department of Forestry staff or an institute under the department’s supervision, the Forest Research Institute. The NGO says the forestry department should not be the only body to decide on the plans due to a conflict of interest.
Saturday marked the end of a 19-day public review period for the 25-year plans, which are meant to show how logging concessions can be managed with due consideration of the local ecology and populations. Approval of the plans is the first step toward ending a logging suspension enacted in January.
Cambodian Timber Industry Association Chairman Henry Kong referred questions on the review period to the Department of Forestry. Department director Ty Sokhun could not be reached by telephone on Sunday.
As the day ended Saturday, 200 villagers representing communities throughout Cambodia submitted comments on all the plans, said Andrew Cock of NGO Forum, which convened a four-day workshop for villagers on the plans last week. The villagers noted numerous cases of violence—including burnings, rapes and even killings—perpetrated by military units, paramilitary units or guards hired by logging companies, Cock said.
“It’s like violence is just institutionalized as a tool to govern these areas,” he said. Companies can prevent illegal cutting in their forests without intimidating villagers or shutting them out of the forests, he said.
Global Witness found many indications that the logging plans were unrealistic, said coordinator Eva Galabru. Every concession contained logged-out areas that the companies claimed had still not been cut, she said. Several companies claimed they would buy wood from each other to keep their mills profitable, indicating there would not be enough legal logs to keep mills open. Some mills should be shut to lessen the pressure to log illegally, she said.
Because some companies hired the same authors, some numbers were simply copied, Galabru said. For example, two companies working in two different provinces, Samrong Wood and Timas, listed the same numbers for costs such as salary and electricity.
In another example, authors supposedly interviewed villagers about their use of resin trees. In two concessions, Everbright and Mieng Ly Heng, the exact same number of villagers was reported as owning resin trees. In the same wording, the authors accused villagers of lying about the numbers of trees they used.
Only five companies delineated community forests in their plans as required by law, Galabru said. Locals were not consulted and in most cases the delineated areas contain no useful forest, she said.