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Tuesday, 30 January, 2001, 13:17 GMT
Illegal logging boom in Cambodia
logs - global witness
Timber companies are 'robbing Cambodia blind'
Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered an inquiry into illegal logging following a report warning that commercial forestry could be dead within years.

Environmental watchdog, Global Witness said there had been a "massive increase" in illegal logging, fuelled by official corruption.


They are able to do this with impunity because of high level political connections

Simon Taylor, Global Witness
It said all 16 timber companies working in Cambodia - most of them part or wholly foreign owned - were repeatedly flouting the law and robbing the country of millions of dollars in revenue.

Global Witness said the companies were allowed to carry on with impunity thanks to the collusion of forestry officials and the corrupt judicial system.

The report was released to coincide with Monday's meeting between Hun Sen and international donors.

The donors, who provide almost half the government budget, have previously linked aid to reform in the forestry sector.

Warning

Hun Sen
Hun Sen: Promising a crackdown
In the past two years, Cambodia has had considerable success in cutting down on illegal logging under reforms introduced by Hun Sen.

The crackdown came after the World Bank warned in 1998 that nearly 90% of Cambodia's log production was illegal and commercial forestry would be finished within five years if the problem was not tackled.

But Global Witness, which acts as the independent monitor for the country's forestry sector, said there was evidence that illegal logging was now returning to those levels.

It said there was almost no monitoring by government authorities and, in the rare cases when offenders were brought to trial, the courts failed to impose any significant penalty.

Moratorium

Hun Sen said on Monday he was ordering a thorough investigation into illegal logging and a renewed crackdown on illegal sawmills.

logs
All timber companies are accused of flouting laws
Simon Taylor, co-founder of Global Witness, said if Cambodia was serious about reform then illegal loggers should be hit with hefty penalties and those companies that consistently breached regulations should be thrown out.

"The alternative is that we wake up in 10 years and there is nothing left," he added.

"Some of the most pristine areas remaining are being looted, and aside from the environment, the country is being robbed blind.

"It's high time that the donors insisted on a complete moratorium on cutting until this is sorted out."

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See also:

23 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Illegal loggers resort to violence
29 Oct 98 | Asia-Pacific
Cambodia's illegal logging boom
19 Jan 01 | Americas
Roads lead to Amazon 'destruction'
12 Dec 00 | Sci/Tech
Asian elephants 'cling to survival'
08 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jakarta warned over forest crisis
24 Aug 99 | Sci/Tech
Loggers threaten orang-utans
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