Source: Khmer Times / Wednesday, 20 April 2016 by May Titthara
The National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) has sent its report to Prime Minister Hun Sen after inspecting timber companies and timber stocks, with the committee finding more than 70,000 cubic meters of timber owned by those companies was illegal.
The NADC has also filed 57 complaints to the courts against businessmen in the timber industry.
NADC spokesman Eng Hy could not give details about the report and could only say the report revealed there was more than 70,000 cubic meters of a variety of illegal wood.
“The report has already been compiled from different reports sent from other provinces. We have sent the final report to the government,” he said.
“For the moment, we haven’t heard anything. We are waiting for Samdach’s [Mr. Hun Sen’s] comments on the report,” said the spokesman.
He added that the committee had filed complaints against timber companies and the businessmen involved to the courts with prosecutors processing the complaints and already issuing 31 warrants.
He also said that since the anti-deforestation campaign started, illegal logging activity has slowed in the northeast of the country in places such as Kampong Cham, Tbong Khmum, Kratie, Steung Treng, Ratanakiri and Modulkiri provinces.
“It was in Modulkiri province where crimes happened the most among the provinces situated in the northeast where we have been doing the inspections.”
In March, during the annual meeting of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Prime Minister Hun Sen decided to give confiscated timber to the ministry to be used in the construction of schools, teacher housing and educational tools.
The 27 NGOs working to protect the rights of indigenous people and the forest have urged the government and related institutions to take measures to stop deforestation crimes nationwide, and to transparently and publicly show the results of their anti-deforestation operations such as the quantity of confiscated wood, the perpetrators and the assailants who burned stockpiles.
Sok Ratha, a coordinator working for Adhoc in Mondulkiri province, said that after the creation of the NADC, deforestation crimes had slightly decreased, but there were still some people continuing to cut wood to sell it to furniture shops.
“What we are still concerned about is now people are cutting wood to sell it as stakes for pepper plantations instead of exporting it, due to the increasing pepper business,” said Mr. Ratha.
A joint force of Keo Seima district’s gendarmerie and O Raing Euv district’s gendarmerie in Mondulkiri yesterday stopped four businessmen as they were transporting timber in their Lexus 470.
“We have been building a file concerning the four accused to send to the court, while the evidence, the wood in the car, was given to officials of the forestry administration,” said Mr. Saraing.
Ouch Leng, the executive director of Human Rights Task Force, who recently received the world-class Goldman Environmental Prize, said via email that he would like to ask the NADC to publicly and transparently show the results of its anti-deforestation operation, as the committee has yet to reveal any detailed findings from their operations.
“The committee was just surprising timber businessmen for a short while. Whenever this committee pauses its activities, the timber businessmen will resume their wood business,” said Mr. Leng.
In January last year, Mr. Hun Sen decided to create the NADC in order to suppress the anarchic tree cutting, the illegal export of wood and other crimes, and bring the perpetrators to justice.
The committee was tasked to gather evidence and to cooperate with authorities in Vietnam and Laos.
The government provided the committee with two helicopters equipped with rocket launchers for its operation.