Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t releases data on timber baron’s deal

Gov’t releases data on timber baron’s deal

Gov’t releases data on timber baron’s deal

Tycoon Try Pheap has collected an estimated 1,500 cubic metres of timber from Forestry Administration offices since the government in July issued his companies permission to confiscate “waste wood” from their offices and from the Ministry of Environment, according to preliminary government figures obtained by the Post yesterday.

An unknown amount of wood held at facilities run by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Environment was given to Pheap’s MDS Import Export Company and MDS Thmodar SEZ Company in a letter from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet on July 24.

The decision followed a similar order in 2013, in which Pheap paid about $3.4 million for the right to collect nearly 5,000 cubic metres of luxury timber from the Forestry Administration.

“More than 1,500 cubic metres was confiscated so far since [the] order [was signed],” Forestry Admin­istration director Chheng Kimsun said, adding that official figures had not yet been calculated.

Bun Uy, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, issued letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Ministry of Environment in late July, saying that Pheap’s firms had to destroy some of the timber but were allowed to export whatever remained.

While the wood was classified as “waste wood” by the government in order to justify the handover, a significant portion of the timber held by the Forestry Administration is thought to be luxury-grade and held as evidence in criminal cases against illegal loggers.

Kimsun said that even after the official figures were collated, the amount confiscated by Pheap was likely to rise as more luxury wood was confiscated from loggers who travel across the Dangrek Mountains in northern Cambodia to illegally log in Thailand’s forested border regions.

Pheap rose to prominence as a logging baron as Cambodia switched in the early 2000s from a policy of directly issuing logging concessions to a “conversion” program in which economic land concessions were granted to Cambodian and foreign investors almost exclusively in or adjacent to heavily forested areas.

The concessions have come under heavy criticism ever since, amid allegations that they have routinely been used as a front for large-scale illegal timber extraction.

In a report released earlier this month, monitoring group Forest Trends estimated that as much as 90 per cent of timber exports from Cambodia are sourced illegally and the “main driver” is the agro-industrial conversion scheme.

In 2011, the government acknowledged in a report published by the Technical Working Group on Forestry that its own conversion policy had been the main cause of the dramatic decline in forest cover in recent years.

“The available evidence … demonstrates that most, if not all, of the deforestation taking place in Cambodia … is illegal in some way,” Forest Trends said in the report.

MOST VIEWED

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM takes time to meet, greet Cambodians living in the US

    After landing in the US ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Prime Minister Hun Sen was received by over 1,000 Cambodian-Americans including political analysts who welcomed him with greetings, fist bumps and selfies. Hun Sen also met with analyst Mak Hoeun, who had allegedly spoken ill

  • Khmer cinema classics back on big screen for free at WB Arena’s outdoor movies series

    On a recent Saturday evening at WB Arena, Bunsong was enjoying a tasty BBQ meal with his family after work on the long tables that had been arranged out in front of the restaurant as they watched a Khmer action movie on a big outdoor

  • PM heads to Washington for ASEAN-US special summit

    Regional and international issues and how to bring the ASEAN-US partnership to another level will be discussed at length as Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ministers arrive in Washington, DC, for a special summit on May 12-13. During the trip, Hun Sen and ASEAN

  • National Assembly refutes EU resolution

    The National Assembly (NA) has hit back at a European Parliament resolution condemning the political and human rights situation in Cambodia, calling it another display of the Parliament’s “double standards”. Key points of the resolution include a warning that the Parliament could exclude the