A T least 11 companies, with concessions to log more than 2 million hectares of
forest, are likely to be exempt from the government's national logging ban which
took effect April 30.
The Agriculture Ministry confirmed that contracts
with logging firms, such as that with Malaysia's Samling Corporation to log
800,000 hectares of trees, would be honored by the government.
official Meas Son said 11 firms had been given logging concessions, totaling 2.4
million hectares of timber, since the end of the State of Cambodia regime in the
But under new regulations being drawn up, concession holders
will have to prepare a "master plan", to ensure sustainable forest management,
before they can continue logging.
Meanwhile, Cambodia's 377 licensed
sawmills - processing about 920,000 cubic meters of timber a year - can remain
Khem Chanda, Deputy Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of
Agriculture, said the government would prefer the saw mills to switch to
producing finished products, rather than raw export timber.
Agriculture Tao Senghour said the government would not close the mills, though
some might be closed by their owners.
Doubt remains about whether illegal
logging, particularly in Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, will be able to be
Khem Chanda said that without the help of Thailand and other
neighboring countries, stopping illegal timber exports would be
"I'm afraid that we cannot halt it... especially along the
Thai border," he said, adding that he hoped the Thai government would take moves
to stop traders dealing with the KR.
Tao Senghour was more positive,
saying the government had captured some KR areas known for logging, but
acknowledged "we need help as well".
Vietnam and Laos had pledged to
cooperate to enforce the logging ban, and he said he would seek a renewed
assurance from Thailand that it would do the same.
He said the government
would confiscate any illegally cut logs it found in Cambodia, and put them up
for auction to be processed.
He said he had sought the cooperation of the
Ministries of Interior and Defense to ensure the ban was enforced.
Seng Hong, Deputy-General staff of the Cambodian Royal Armed Forces, dismissed
claims that senior military officials were involved in the illicit logging
trade, but promised to fire any who were found to be.
He said military
and police numbers along Cambodia's borders had been boosted by 600 policemen
charged with upholding the logging ban.