Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO report finds banned exports of logs to Vietnam increased

NGO report finds banned exports of logs to Vietnam increased

Logs are hauled onto a Vietnamese transporter in Ratanakkiri province for delivery to Vietnam in February this year. EIA
Logs are hauled onto a Vietnamese transporter in Ratanakkiri province for delivery to Vietnam in February this year. EIA

NGO report finds banned exports of logs to Vietnam increased

The ostensibly-outlawed export of logs to Vietnam increased in May, while the trade in sawn timber, also supposedly banned, remained substantial, new Vietnamese customs data shows.

According to the figures, obtained and released by US-based NGO Forest Trends, Vietnam received 9,329 cubic metres of logs from Cambodia in May, valued at $1.7 million and equalling an almost 50 percent increase in volume from the month before.

As for sawn timber, 18,691 cubic metres of Cambodian timber – valued at $12.7 million – were registered by Vietnamese customs authorities in May, down from the 21,670 cubic metres recorded for April.

While yet again contradicting a timber export ban announced by the government in January of 2016, the figures also appear to indicate that an explosive exposé in May by the Environmental Investigation Agency had “no impact” in denting the multi-million trade on the ground, said Forest Trends analyst Phuc Xuan To.

The May EIA report alleged Vietnamese-backed timber traders logged and smuggled more than 300,000 cubic metres of timber, mostly from Ratanakkiri province, between November and early April and paid vast bribes to officials on both sides of the border to facilitate the “systematic” operation.

In the wake of the revelations, Environment Minister Say Sam Al said the ministry was investigating local officials for involvement in timber smuggling.

However, in a message yesterday, he characterised the May EIA report as “politically motivated”, and said it had “a lot of questionable claims” meant to “tarnish and undermine my effort and the government”.

Asked whether the ministry had found any evidence to counter claims in the report, he replied, “it is confidential”.

Sam Al did not comment on the new Vietnamese customs data and the director of Cambodia’s General Department of Customs and Excise, Kun Nhem, declined to comment.

Reached yesterday, EIA senior campaigner Jago Wadley called the assertion of political motivation “preposterous”.

“Our report shows Cambodia’s resources are being stolen. Yes, there is corruption in Cambodia, undoubtedly, but that does not mean that we are somehow getting involved in politics,” he said. “Cambodia is a victim but the government is behaving like a perpetrator because they are not investigating the allegations.”

Veteran anti-logging activist Marcus Hardtke said the EIA report was “proved in every way”, and that the lack of official interest in investigating the case suggested “high-ranking” involvement. “What we have to assume is that this went all the way to Phnom Penh.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Pailin longan winery tries to break through to the big time

    Longan aren’t quite as glamorous as some fruits. They don’t have the star-power of mangos or generate the excitement of a pricey seasonal niche fruit like the pungent durian. Unlike bananas or oranges, which are known and loved everywhere, longan remains a decidedly

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’

  • Debt restructuring over, time to tackle rising NPL ratio

    The Cambodian banking system has just completed a 26-month debt restructuring exercise where scores of loan accounts were revised, classified and provisioned as the rate of non-performing loans inched up, sparking a slight credit risk unease Implemented in April 2020, the Covid-19 debt restructuring measures came

  • Koh Slaket studio resort brings culture with style

    Davitra (Cambodia) Co Ltd’s multi-million-dollar 13ha Koh Slaket studio-cum-resort just east of the capital was inaugurated in the first phase on August 6, providing national and international tourists with a new travel option and job opportunities for locals. The man-made cultural and scenic lakefront getaway