Agriculture Ministry stands up for sawmill

The Ministry of Agriculture in a press release on Sunday defended its decision to grant a sawmill licence to a company that has previously been implicated in illegal logging.

Lim Royal Joint Stock Co was granted the licence on Thursday, allowing them to operate a sawmill within company land in Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces. The once-protected land was given to the company in 2012 as part of an economic land concession approved by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Lim Royal was linked to forestry crimes as recently as last year, with a report by the Ministry of Economy and Finance noting at the time that 264 cubic metres of illegal timber were seized on its land and later sold at auction.

Nonetheless, the Agriculture Ministry yesterday insisted that issuing the sawmill licence “is not against Forestry Law . . . and will encourage investors, create jobs for Cambodia and products to be taxed for state income”.

Ministry spokesman Lor Raksmey also defended the decision, saying the licence can be revoked at any time. “If the wood is illegal, the licence will be cancelled,” he said.

Still, Pen Bunnar, senior Adhoc land investigator, called for Lim Royal’s licence to be cancelled and for the issuance of other new sawmill licences to be suspended to preserve remaining forests.

While Environment Minister Say Sam Al declined to comment on the Agriculture Ministry’s decision, his ministry’s spokesman, Sao Sopheap, said they did not oppose the sawmill grant.

Instead, they would “work together with the Ministry of Agriculture to make sure everything is under control, including any illegal activity that may happen”, Sopheap said, adding that he was unaware the company had previously been implicated in forest crimes.

Source: Phnom Penh Post

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