ផ្លាកសញ្ញាហាមកាប់ឈើ និងទង់ព្រលឹង Sign of No Chainsaw and Ghost Flag

CHRTF with support from Lush Hong Kong hang ghost flag and sign of NO Chainsaw in order to scare loggers inside Protected Area of Prey Lang

Ghost Flag

big-resin-trees-5​ក្រុមកិច្ចការពិសេសសិទ្ធិមនុស្សកម្ពុជា ក្រោមជំនួយឧបត្ថម្ភថវិការបស់ម្ចាស់ជំនួយ Lush Hong Kong ​បានដាក់ផ្លាកសញ្ញា ហាមកាប់ឈើ និង ទង់ព្រលឹងនៅក្នុងតំបន់ការពារព្រៃឡង់ ដើម្បីបន្លាច អ្នកកាប់ឈើ

​សូមចូលរួមការពារព្រៃឈើ​ព្រៃឈើដែលនៅសេសសល់បន្តិចបន្តួចទាំងអស់គ្នា Please join us to protect small amount of the remaining forest in Cambodia

No chainsawក្រោកឈរឡើង លើកដៃឡើងលើ រួចស្រែកឲ្យខ្លាំងៗថា ព្រៃឈើ ព្រៃឈើ ព្រៃឈើ ​ទាំងអស់គ្នា !!!!!

Stand up and raise your hand and say out Forest Forest Forest !!!!!  altogether

Activists tell US to step up forest protection efforts

Activists tell US to step up forest protection efforts

A man examines logged timber in an area of Prey Lang forest in Preah Vihear province earlier this week. Photo supplied

A man examines logged timber in an area of Prey Lang forest in Preah Vihear province earlier this week. Photo supplied

Conservationist Marcus Hardtke yesterday blasted USAID and Winrock for “four years of mismanagement” as the Forest Monitoring Working Group put out a call for “urgent action” from the American bodies.

“They’re not addressing the core problem,” Hardtke said, adding that the two groups were ignoring the corruption that drives illegal logging.

Yesterday’s statement warned that rampant illegal logging in community forests and protected areas of Prey Lang – where Winrock has USAID-funded programs – meant resin trees would be “completely wiped out” by 2017.

The statement appealed for “strong political commitment” to combat complicity by authorities and government officials.

Curtis Handley, of Winrock, said his organisation had done plenty, and “provided equipment and trained patrols to help protect forests”.

But, Hardtke said, “All their workshops and their surveys and their feel-good stuff are not saving a single tree.”

US Embassy spokesman David Josar said that USAID “is committed to protecting and preserving Cambodia’s forests”.

​USAid ​ត្រូវជួយការពារជ័រច្បោះនៅកម្ពុជា USAid Urged to Save Resin Trees in Cambodia

US Urged to Save Trees

A group of environmental NGOs working to protect the Prey Lang forest called on the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to intervene and protect the region’s resin trees, or they will all be logged within six months, they claimed in a joint-statement issued yesterday.
The statement urged USAID, which works in the region on a program called Supporting Forests and Biodiversity, to make efforts to add resin trees to its mandate.
“Our working group to monitor the forests in Cambodia has predicted that within six months all of the resin trees will be lost in the Prey Lang and Preah Vihear areas,” it said.
“Resin trees are being cut in the protected forest areas and community forests to supply wood for the factories around those areas. Dealers have announced in public they will buy the trees without fear of prosecution.”
The statement claims that a logging company named 95 PNT Thy Nga has sent out teams to log resin trees and is demanding villagers sell their trees for as little as 10,000 riel (about $2.50).
“Daily resin collection by local people has almost completely ended now that up to 80 percent of resin trees in some community forests have been lost, as well as from a depth of 40 kilometers into the Prey Lang protected area.”
It says that at least five timber processing factories are operating in economic and social land concessions in Kampong Thom province in communities supported by USAID and Winrock International, despite a recent ban on logging by the government. The statement urges USAID to intervene and ensure authorities actually enforce the logging ban, rather than openly support logging.
“[The logging] is due to the joint conspiracy of local authorities and the Forestry Administration to facilitate the illegal timber business. Wood smuggling is even protected by the armed forces.”
On May 9, the government issued a sub-decree declaring the Prey Lang forest a wildlife sanctuary covering some 430,000 hectares in four provinces, and tasked the Environment Ministry with its management.
On Tuesday, the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention acknowledged that although there were efforts from authorities to prevent logging in the country, illegal logging and wood smuggling were still taking place.
Ouch Leng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force – one of the NGOs that signed the statement – said that so far USAID had failed to protect villagers out of fear of dealing with the timber companies.

 

“Eventually all the wood, and with it the money, will be lost. Local people’s livelihoods are already getting worse from day to day.
“Soon there will be no traditional jobs besides slavery to the logging companies. When the resin trees have been completely destroyed, there will be no reason left to protect what is left of the forests, and people will move in to turn it all into farmland,” he warned.
Mr. Leng said that Environment Minister Say Samal had recently asked for $50 million from the US government to preserve Prey Lang, but given the number of timber factories still operating in the area it does not appear that authorities really care.
Representatives from USAID did not respond to emailed questions in time for publication.
Top Kakada, the director of the Kampong Thom provincial environment department, said yesterday that forest crimes in the province had greatly decreased in recent months and were certainly not a cause for alarm.
He refuted the claims of wide-scale logging and land grabbing in Prey Lang, but admitted it could well be happening outside the protected forest.
“Prey Lang in the past, we see that it’s alone and has been exploited, but after that we made it a wildlife sanctuary, it became a protected conservation area…and we will work to prevent it from destruction,” he said, stressing that all of his work was done according to instructions from ministry directors and the provincial governor.

 

A motorbike modified to carry illegal timber. KT/Mai Vireak

ព្រៃឈើ​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់​នៅ​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ​និង​ព្រះវិហារ​នៅ​តែ​រង​ការ​កាប់​បំផ្លាញ​ Illegal logging inside Prey Lang

ឈើ ព្រៃឡង់ ៨៥៥ ២០១៦

គោយន្ត​ដឹក​ជញ្ជូន​ឈើ​នៅ​តំបន់​ដី​សម្បទាន​សេដ្ឋកិច្ច​វៀតណាម ឈ្មោះ ធីង៉ា (Thy Nga) នៅ​ខេត្ត​ព្រះវិហារ ជាប់​ព្រំប្រទល់​ស្រុក​សណ្ដាន់ ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ កាល​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​១៣ កញ្ញា ឆ្នាំ​២០១៦។

Photo provided

មន្ត្រី​សង្គម​ស៊ីវិល​ធ្វើ​ការងារ​រឿង​បរិស្ថាន​នៅ​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ មើល​ឃើញ​ថា បទល្មើស​ព្រៃឈើ​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ការពារ​មួយ​នេះ​នៅ​តែ​បន្ត​កើត​មាន​ឡើង​គួរ​ឱ្យ​ បារម្ភ។ ការ​លើក​ឡើង​នេះ ក្រោយ​ពេល​ពួកគេ​ចុះ​ពិនិត្យ​ស្ថានភាព​ព្រៃឡង់ កាល​ពី​ពេល​ថ្មីៗ​នេះ ហើយ​ប្រទះឃើញ​បទល្មើស​ជា​ច្រើន មាន​ទាំង​ការ​កាប់​ទន្ទ្រាន​ព្រៃ​យក​ដី​ដាំ​ដំណាំ នៅ​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ និង​ការ​កាប់​ឈើ​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ការពារ​ដឹក​ចូល​ក្រុមហ៊ុន​ដី​សម្បទាន​ជាដើម។

អ្នក​សម្របសម្រួល​លេខាធិការដ្ឋាន​បណ្ដាញ​ព្រៃឡង់ លើក​ឡើង​ថា ប្រសាសន៍ និង​បទបញ្ជា​របស់​នាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ហ៊ុន សែន តម្រូវ​ឱ្យ​មន្ត្រី​ពាក់ព័ន្ធ​ចូល​រួម​ការពារ​បទល្មើស​ព្រៃឈើ​ឱ្យ​បាន​នោះ គឺ​ធ្វើ​គ្រាន់តែ​ល្អ​មើល​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ។ ពួកគេ​ថា ស្ថានភាព​ព្រៃ​ការពារ​មួយ​នេះ​អាច​ឈាន​ដល់​ការ​ប្រកាស​អាសន្ន​ថែម​ទៀត​ផង​នៅ ​ពេល​បច្ចុប្បន្ន ពីព្រោះ​សកម្មភាព​កាប់​បំផ្លាញ​ព្រៃឈើ​នៅ​តែ​កើត​មាន​ឡើង​ឥត​ឈប់ឈរ។

អ្នក​សម្របសម្រួល​លេខាធិការដ្ឋាន​បណ្ដាញ​ព្រៃឡង់ ទាំង​បួន​ខេត្ត លោក សេង សុខហេង មាន​ប្រសាសន៍​ថា តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ នៅ​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ ក្នុង​ឃុំ​ដងកាំបិត និង​ឃុំ​មានរិទ្ធ មាន​ករណី​កាប់​រាន​ដី​ព្រៃ​រាប់​រយ​ហិកតារ​យក​ធ្វើ​ចម្ការ។ ក្រៅ​ពី​នេះ ក្នុង​ទឹកដី​ខេត្ត​ព្រះវិហារ ជាប់​ព្រំប្រទល់​ស្រុក​សណ្ដាន់ ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ រោងចក្រ​កែច្នៃ​ឈើ​ឈ្មោះ ៩៥ ដោយ​ជ្រក​ក្រោម​ស្លាក​ក្រុមហ៊ុន​ដី​សម្បទាន​សេដ្ឋកិច្ច​វៀតណាម មួយ​ឈ្មោះ​ធីង៉ា (Thy Nga) បាន​កាប់​ឈើ​ពី​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ ហើយ​ដឹក​ចូល​ក្នុង​ក្រុមហ៊ុន រួច​ទើប​បន្ត​ដឹក​ចេញ​តាម​រថយន្ត​យីឌុប​ធំៗ រថយន្ត​តូច និង​ម៉ាស៊ីន​គោយន្ត​ច្នៃ​ជាដើម។

លោក​ថា ក្នុង​ពេល​លោក​ចុះ​ឃ្លាំមើល​រយៈពេល ៥​ថ្ងៃ ចាប់​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​៨ ខែ​កញ្ញា ដល់​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​១៣ ខែ​កញ្ញា សកម្មភាព​ដឹក​ឈើ​ចេញ​ពី​ក្រុមហ៊ុន គឺ​មិន​ក្រោម ១​ពាន់​ម៉ែត្រ​គូប​ទេ៖ «ខ្ញុំ​ជឿ​ជាក់​ថា គ្មាន​ប្រសិទ្ធភាព​ទេ ពីព្រោះ​បើ​មាន​ប្រសិទ្ធភាព​គឺ​មាន​តាំង​ពី​យូរ​មក​ហើយ។ គ្រាន់តែ​ជា​ការ​និយាយ​មួយ​ដើម្បី​ឱ្យ​គ្រាន់តែ​ល្អ​ស្ដាប់​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ»

​លោក​បន្ត​ថា ពលរដ្ឋ​រស់​នៅ​តំបន់​នោះ​មួយ​ចំនួន និង​ពលរដ្ឋ​មក​ពី​ខេត្ត​ឆ្ងាយៗ ត្រូវ​បាន​គេ​ជួល​ចូល​ទៅ​កាប់​ឈើ​ក្នុង​មួយ​ម៉ែត្រ​គូប​ពី ១០​ម៉ឺន​រៀល ទៅ ២០​ម៉ឺន​រៀល។ បន្ថែម​ពី​នេះ ក្រុមហ៊ុន​បាន​ដើរ​ប្រមូល​ទិញ​ដើម​ច្បោះ​ជ័រ ឬ​ដើម​ឈើទាល​ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋ ហើយ​បើ​ពលរដ្ឋ​មិន​ព្រម​លក់ ពួកគេ​កាប់​យក​តែម្ដង។ លោក​អះអាង​ថា ក្រុមហ៊ុន​ធីង៉ា គឺ​គ្មាន​ឈើ​សម្រាប់​កាប់​ទៀត​ឡើយ ហើយ​ឈើ​ដែល​ដឹក​ចេញពី​ក្រុមហ៊ុន​រាល់​ថ្ងៃ គឺជា​ឈើ​កាប់​ពី​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ជម្រក​សត្វ​ប៉ុណ្ណោះ។

កាល​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​៩ ខែ​ឧសភា រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាល​បាន​ចេញ​អនុក្រឹត្យ​មួយ​ស្ដីពី​ការ​បង្កើត​ដែន​ជម្រក​ សត្វព្រៃ​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ ដែល​មាន​ទំហំ​ជាង ៤​សែន​ហិកតារ (៤៣១.៦៨៣) ស្ថិត​នៅ​ភូមិសាស្ត្រ​ខេត្ត​ចំនួន​៤ រួម​មាន​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ ក្រចេះ ស្ទឹងត្រែង និង​ខេត្ត​ព្រះវិហារ។ រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាល​ក៏​បាន​ប្រគល់​សិទ្ធិ​គ្រប់គ្រង និង​ការពារ​ព្រៃ​អភិរក្ស​មួយ​នេះ​ទៅ​ឱ្យ​ក្រសួង​បរិស្ថាន។

ទាក់ទង​បញ្ហា​នេះ ប្រធាន​មន្ទីរ​បរិស្ថាន​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ លោក តុប កក្កដា មាន​ប្រសាសន៍​នៅ​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​១៤ ខែ​កញ្ញា ថា បទល្មើស​នៅ​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ ក្នុង​ខេត្ត​កំពង់ធំ គឺ​បាន​ថយ​ចុះ​ច្រើន មិន​មែន​ដល់​កម្រិត​ប្រកាស​អាសន្ន​ដូច​ការ​លើក​ឡើង​ទេ ប៉ុន្តែ​ចំពោះ​ខេត្ត​គេ​ផ្សេង​លោក​មិន​បាន​ដឹង​ឡើយ។ ចំណែក​សកម្មភាព​រាន​ដី​ព្រៃ​ថ្មីៗ ជា​លក្ខណៈ​ទ្រង់ទ្រាយ​ធំ​នៅ​តំបន់​ព្រៃឡង់ ក្នុង​តំបន់​ដែល​លោក​គ្រប់គ្រង គឺ​មិន​មាន​ឡើយ ប៉ុន្តែ​អាច​មាន​ខ្លះ​នៅ​ក្រៅ​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ការពារ។

យ៉ាង​ណា​ក៏ដោយ លោក​នឹង​ស្រាវជ្រាវ​ជុំវិញ​បញ្ហា​នេះ៖ «អ៊ីចឹង​កិច្ចការ​នេះ​ខ្ញុំ​ធ្វើ​ការ​ទៅ​តាម​ការ​ណែនាំ​របស់​ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ​ ក្រសួង ថ្នាក់ដឹកនាំ​របស់​អភិបាល​ខេត្ត។ អ៊ីចឹង​ព្រៃឡង់​នេះ យើង​ឃើញ​ថា កន្លង​មក​វា​ឯកា​មែន ប៉ុន្តែ​ក្រោយ​ពេល​យើង​បាន​ដាក់​បញ្ចូល​ជា​ដែន​ជម្រក​សត្វ ជា​តំបន់​សម្រាប់​អភិរក្ស។ អ៊ីចឹង​ជា​ទិសដៅ​យើង​នឹង​ធ្វើ​ការ​អភិរក្ស នឹង​ធ្វើ​ការ​ទប់ស្កាត់​ឱ្យ​ខាង​តែបាន»

​លោក​បន្ត​ថា ចាប់​តាំង​ពី​រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាល​ដាក់​ព្រៃឡង់ ជា​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ការពារ ខាង​មន្ទីរ​បរិស្ថាន​ខេត្ត​ធ្វើ​ការងារ​នេះ យ៉ាង​យក​ចិត្ត​ទុក​ដាក់​ដោយ​សហការ​ជាមួយ​អាជ្ញាធរ​ខេត្ត និង​ប្រជា​សហគមន៍​ថែម​ទៀត។ គិត​ចាប់​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​១០ ខែ​ឧសភា ដល់​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​១០ ខែ​កញ្ញា មន្ត្រី​បរិស្ថាន​ខេត្ត​បង្ក្រាប​បាន​បទល្មើស​ឈើ​ដឹក​ចេញពី​ព្រៃឡង់ ជាង ១០៧​ម៉ែត្រគូប រណារ​យន្ត ១០៥​គ្រឿង ព្រមទាំង​អាវុធ​កែច្នៃ​ចំនួន ១០​ដើម។

​កាល​ពី​ថ្ងៃ​ទី​២២ ខែ​សីហា លោក​នាយករដ្ឋមន្ត្រី ហ៊ុន សែន ប្រកាស​ឲ្យ​ក្រសួង​ពាក់ព័ន្ធ​នឹង​ធនធាន​ធម្មជាតិ​ចំនួន​៦ ពិភាក្សា​ជាមួយ​អង្គការ​សង្គម​ស៊ីវិល​រៀងរាល់ ៣​ខែ​ម្ដង ដើម្បី​រក​វិធីសាស្ត្រ​ការពារ និង​អភិរក្ស​ធនធាន​ធម្មជាតិ។

ទោះ​បី​យ៉ាង​ណា​ក៏ដោយ ប្រធាន​ក្រុម​កិច្ចការ​ពិសេស​សិទ្ធិមនុស្ស​កម្ពុជា លោក អ៊ូច ឡេង មើល​ឃើញ​ថា សេចក្ដី​ប្រកាស​របស់​រាជ​រដ្ឋាភិបាល​ក្នុង​កិច្ច​ការពារ​ធនធាន​ធម្មជាតិ ពិសេស​ព្រៃឈើ គឺ​មិន​មាន​ប្រយោជន៍​ឡើយ ពីព្រោះ​មាត់​ថា ការពារ ប៉ុន្តែ​រោងចក្រ​កែច្នៃ​ឈើ​បែរ​ដាក់​ឱ្យ​មាន​នៅ​តំបន់​ព្រៃ​អភិរក្ស​ទៅ​វិញ។

លោក​ថា បច្ចុប្បន្ន​ឈ្មួញ​ចាប់​ផ្ដើម​ប្រមូល​យក​ដើម​ច្បោះ​ជ័រ​ពលរដ្ឋ​នៅ​តំបន់​ ព្រៃឡង់ ពីព្រោះ​ឈើ​ប្រណិត​ប្រភេទ​លេខ​១ និង​លេខ​២ លែង​មាន ហើយ​នឹង​ឈាន​ទៅ​វិនាស​ដើម​ច្បោះ​ជ័រ​ក្នុង​ពេល​ឆាប់ៗ៖ «យើង​បារម្ភ​ថា ដើម​ជ័រ​ច្បោះ​នឹង​ទទួល​ការ​វិនាស​សាបសូន្យ​ក្នុង​រយៈពេល ៦​ខែ​ទៀត ប្រសិនបើ​រាជរដ្ឋាភិបាល​លោក​មិន​បាន​ចាត់​វិធានការ​ទប់ស្កាត់»

​លោក អ៊ូច ឡេង គ្រោង​នឹង​បញ្ជូន​របាយការណ៍​មួយ​ចំនួន​ទាក់ទង​ការ​កាប់​បំផ្លាញ​ព្រៃឈើ​នៅ​ តំបន់​ព្រៃ​ការពារ ដែល​ខាង​លោក​ទើប​រក​ឃើញ​ថ្មីៗ​នេះ ដាក់​ទៅ​ក្រសួង​ពាក់ព័ន្ធ ព្រម​ទាំង​រាយការណ៍​ទៅ​ម្ចាស់​ជំនួយ​អន្តរជាតិ​ធំៗ ដើម្បី​ដាក់​សម្ពាធ​មក​រដ្ឋាភិបាល​ខ្មែរ ឱ្យ​យក​ចិត្ត​ទុក​ដាក់​បន្ថែម​ទៀត​លើ​កិច្ច​ការពារ​ធនធាន​ធម្មជាតិ​នៅ​ពេល​ បច្ចុប្បន្ន៕

Winners of Goldman Prize from two of world’s deadliest countries for environmental activism

Two of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize[i] winners embody the severe risks facing environmental activists in Peru and Cambodia, which rank among the world’s most dangerous countries to defend the natural world according to Global Witness data.

This year’s winner from South America, Máxima Acuña de Chaupe, has been beaten by police and suffered years of intimidation for refusing to allow the construction of an open-pit gold mine on her land. Asia’s winner, Ouch Leng, is regularly followed and threatened by forest authorities and logging companies for his investigative work into the country’s multi-million dollar black market in illegal wood, which is gutting the country’s last forests.

Goldman prize winners 2016

The acute vulnerability of people who take a stand against destructive industries was recently demonstrated with the murder of one of the 2015 Goldman prize winners. Berta Cáceres had received years of death threats because of her opposition to a hydro-electric dam on her community’s land in Honduras. She was supposed to be under Honduran police protection, but was tragically shot dead in her home last month.

Global Witness is calling on governments to protect environmental defenders like Berta, Máxima and Leng, who are coming under increasing attack.

“The Goldman Environmental Prize is an important recognition of the heroic work of the thousands of people worldwide who take a stand against environmental destruction. Berta Cáceres’ murder was a shocking reminder of the increasing vulnerability of the activists in these modern-day David and Goliath stories,” said Billy Kyte, campaigner at Global Witness. “Two of this year’s winners, Máxima and Leng, have courageously faced up to powerful state and corporate forces in Peru and Cambodia – two of the world’s most dangerous countries for environmental activism.”

Global Witness’ 2015 report How Many More? shows that between 2002 and 2014 at least 57 defenders were murdered in Peru, making it the fifth most dangerous country for environmental activism. Cambodia ranked ninth with 14 deaths. New data suggests that last year 12 more were killed in Peru and 2 more in Cambodia.

Máxima Acuña de Chaupe is an indigenous Peruvian farmworker who has survived violent eviction attempts for her resistance to the construction of a $4.8 billion gold mine on her land.[ii] Five demonstrators were killed by police in protests against the World Bank-funded Conga mine in 2012.

At least 61 activists have been killed in Peru over the last ten years, with almost 80% of deaths related to mining. Peru recently weakened its environmental laws in order to boost mining investment.[iii] It also made it easier for the police and army to get away with killings by reducing their criminal responsibility if they cause injury or death on duty.[iv]

Despite years of threats and intimidation Ouch Leng has persisted in his investigations into how Cambodia’s ruling elite is profiting from Cambodia’s trade in illegal timber, which is robbing forest-dependent communities of their land and livelihoods. At least five deaths have been linked to logging in Cambodia since 2007, including the deaths of two forest rangers in 2015 by suspected illegal loggers.[v] Last month a young forest activist was hacked by a machete whilst investigating rampant illegal logging in Cambodia’s Prey Lang forest. [vi]

Worldwide at least 30 forest defenders were murdered between 2012 and 2014 alone. Over the same period 77 were killed for defending their land against mining.

“As pressure on land and natural resources intensifies, ordinary people are increasingly finding themselves in the firing line of powerful vested interests. At best governments are turning a blind eye to killings, at worst they are complicit in their deaths,” said Kyte. “Urgent action is needed to protect those under threat, investigate crimes, and bring perpetrators to justice. But governments must also tackle the root causes of violence, which dictate that “development” comes at the expense of the natural world and the people who seek to defend it.”

/ENDS

For interviews and other information please contact:

Billy Kyte, Senior Campaigner (London) +44(0)7891 3603590 bkyte@globalwitness.org

Alice Harrison, Communications (London) +44(0) 7841 338792 aharrison@globalwitness.org

https://www.globalwitness.org/en/press-releases/winners-goldman-prize-two-worlds-deadliest-countries-environmental-activism/?gclid=CjwKEAjwya-6BRDR3p6FuY2-u3MSJAD1paxTAH3bHcBeCy3t4HjmJ_xnhrrAg8TJLKIgsTK2XpNQGhoCj0bw_wcB

 

 

Illegal logging still threatens Cambodia’s forests despite ban: Special report

Thousands of tonnes of natural forest wood still crossed the border into Vietnam, even after a Cambodian ban early this year. Indochina correspondent Pichayada Promchertchoo follows the timber trail with a ‘wanted man’.

SEN MONOROM, Cambodia: The road was pitch black but far from empty. Every minute or so, a muddy motorcycle would emerge from the dark and disappear within seconds, laden down with logs tied to the back seat.

“They come through all the time,” Ouch Leng told me as we watched them fly past the Pech Chreada Forestry Administration office. Dark mud stains hinted at an arduous journey through the nearby forest, a protected area of nearly 430,000 hectares in eastern Mondulkiri, wet with monsoon rain.

“They only pay the authorities when they come back from the Vietnam border with money,” the 42-year-old added.

Hours before, I had met Leng in Phnom Penh for the first time. He said he was being watched, but still offered to take me into the forest, where rare trees are believed to be illegally felled as part of a black-market international trade.

Our short discussion had quickly turned into a seven-hour drive to Sen Monorom, the capital of Mondulkiri. The border province is home to one of the largest protected forests in the country, and forms part of the timber trail that leads to Vietnam.

I was driving with one of Cambodia’s “most wanted men”.

Death threats are part of life for environmental activist Ouch Leng, 42, who investigates illegal logging.

But Leng is not a criminal. He is an environmental activist, human rights lawyer and the winner of this year’s prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for Asia. He has spent more than 20 years fighting to save Cambodia’s forests, and travels the country, often undercover, to investigate logging.

Death threats have become part of his life; so has living in a safe house. The forest defender says that danger lurks everywhere, and he is constantly on the run.

“They haven’t pressed any legal charge against me yet because what they want is my life,” he said with a smile. “I’ve never been afraid. I’m just trying to work.”

“They” are people with influence, who want Leng to shut up. “They” are among the powerful few who defy the law and profit from one of the most lucrative markets in the country: The timber trade.

Watch: Ouch Leng takes us down Cambodia’s timber trail

CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADE

The multi-billion dollar business has been thriving, fuelled by illegal logging and corruption as well as legitimate efforts.

Last year, Cambodia became Vietnam’s largest source of timber imports. At least 435,600 cubic metres of natural forest logs and sawn wood, worth more than US$380 million, left its borders for Vietnam, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs’ statistics obtained by US environmental group Forest Trends.

“The rate of growth has been astonishing,” the group said in its most recent report, which showed the volume of imported logs skyrocket – from 383 cubic metres in 2014 to 57,700 cubic metres in 2015. That’s a near 15,000 per cent increase.

The volume of sawn timber imports from Cambodia also expanded in the same period, the report showed, from 153,500 cubic metres to 377,900 cubic metres.

Of those sawn timber imports, 82 per cent was classified as either high-value species or luxury species, and was mainly for re-export to China, Hong Kong and India or as semi-finished products for global markets.

A key driver of this surge in timber exports from Cambodia to Vietnam was the deregulation of import licensing by Hanoi. Import procedures were simplified and timber imports were allowed at all border gates between the two countries.

The increase also coincided with a lack of timber supply from Laos and Myanmar, which banned log exports in response to overharvesting.

Adding to the booming business were alleged links between all sorts of people – from loggers to smugglers, community leaders, police officers, soldiers, government officials and business tycoons – accused of depleting Cambodia’s forests at breakneck speed as they chased easy money.

A task force was set up to stop forest crime and a string of raids took place, in an apparent crackdown early this year.

The situation had become so alarming that in January, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen intervened. He imposed a ban on all timber exports to Vietnam.

He ordered the closure of Cambodia-Vietnam border crossings for timber trade and set up a special task force to stop forest crime – a 10-member committee comprising district police, military police and forestry officials led by the National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha.

The order triggered probes into high-profile businessmen. A string of raids took place at warehouses and economic land concessions suspected of illegal activities.

Arrests were made. Tens of thousands of cubic metres of wood were confiscated. For a few months, Cambodia witnessed what seemed like a serious crackdown on the timber trade.

‘TURF WAR BETWEEN LOGGING CARTELS’

But for some observers, the nationwide campaign was nothing more than a turf war between Cambodia’s biggest logging cartels and, after an initial sharp slowdown, business is starting to pick up again.

Most of the apparently confiscated timber has found its way across the Vietnam border, according to Forest Trends.

“According to our sources, the crackdown was triggered by a business dispute between competing logging cartels, rather than an earnest attempt to stamp out the illegal exploitation of Cambodia’s forests,” said Kerstin Canby, Forest Policy, Trade and Finance Program Director at Forest Trends.

“There is little sign of legal follow-up by the authorities. Field research suggests that most of the purportedly confiscated timber has found its way across the Vietnam border already.”

Data from Vietnamese customs obtained by the group shows the timber exports have continued despite the ban. In January, 34,000 cubic metres of wood still found its way into Vietnam. The number plummeted to 5,000 cubic metres in February before growing to 10,000 cubic metres in March.

The reports are politically motivated, and no more wood is flowing out, says Environment Minister Say Samal.

But according to Cambodian Environment Minister Say Samal, these figures are “groundless” and “falsified”.

“I doubt it’s true. How can you move 10,000 cubic metres of wood across the border without anyone noticing?” he told Channel NewsAsia.

“I’m not denying there are cases where people are still conducting illegal activities with regard to the forest. But I’d like to point this out: It is a problem. But is it at the scale that was reported? No, I don’t think so.”

The Environment Ministry has been studying various reports about forest crimes and cross checking with people on the ground to understand the real situation, Mr Samal said.

“But the majority of our findings show the reports are just politically motivated. No more wood is flowing out.”

DISRUPTED BUT NOT STOPPED

While the trade may not have been eliminated, the crackdown has disrupted the organised, large-scale smuggling by the well-connected operators who were crossing the borders before.

In Mondulkiri, the impact has been noticeable, according to residents. The streets are seeing fewer timber trucks, and traffic along its border crossings is much lighter.

“Only soldiers and police officers come here now,” said a shop owner near the La Pakhe bilateral border gate, once teeming with people and cars. It is almost deserted.

But the illegal timber trade seems to be adapting.

“We don’t see so many timber trucks nowadays. But there are still a lot of timber motorcycles and cars. They transport wood from the protected forest to buyers elsewhere,” a local resident told me.

“They are mostly small-scale operators avoiding official channels altogether,” Ms Canby added.

From the dark, an old minivan whizzed past. Strips of sawn wood could be seen protruding from the boot.

The vehicle was stopped at one of the checkpoints between Mondulkiri and Vietnam, but its driver seemed to know the drill. Casually, he approached a local officer and in one swift moment, placed some money on his table.

Without much delay, the minivan zoomed off with timber still sticking out like a big, long tail.

“You see that? No arrest! They just let him go,” Leng said bitterly.

“Forest Administration officials, rangers and soldiers just wait to take money from loggers. They even make it easy for them to cross the border.”

TIMBER LAUNDERING

The journey to the protected forest of Mondulkiri was rough and muddy. We set out early on motorcycles and bumped along a winding dirt road for three hours. The sight was alarming.

There was hardly any trace of protected forest left.

Trees had been chopped down and uprooted. Unwanted trunks and huge stumps lay sprawled across the forest. Almost everywhere, plantations spread far out of sight.

Thousands of hectares of what was once a pristine forest are cleared for Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) – a long-term lease that allows investors to use private state land for large-scale agriculture.

Those awarded Economic Land Concessions are allowed to clear the land for agriculture.

“Most ELCs are in forested areas with big trees,” said Sok Ratha, Provincial Coordinator of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) in Mondulkiri.

“The government granted land to private companies to grow rubber, pepper and other crops. Now, the forest is almost completely destroyed. Areas outside ELCs are also threatened.”

The Cambodian Government introduced Economic Land Concessions to stimulate the economy and create jobs for local people. It has granted more than 270 concessions, which, according to the environment minister, span an area of 1.2 million hectares nationwide.

The land is meant for industrial agriculture, which involves cultivating crops, raising animals and constructing facilities to process agricultural products.

Successful applicants are awarded the right to clear the land for agriculture. They are therefore allowed to cut all the trees in the premises, install sawmills to process the legally cut wood and export the products.

But that is not always the case. The scheme soon found itself at the heart of Cambodia’s timber trade, with many ELCs apparently used to cover up illegal logging operations.

Many ELCs are possibly being used to cover up illegal logging operations.

“Once they’ve depleted their land, they’ll cut more trees outside the ELC.

“The wood is then brought to their sawmills, where illegal logs are turned into legal timber. The timber is then transported to other countries through the Vietnam border and the international port at Sihanoukville,” Leng explained.

“This is the strategy of Cambodia’s timber business,” he said.

Nonetheless, Mr Samal is clear: “Let me put it this way: Large-scale illegal logging has been stopped. Period. It’s done.”

NO BRIBES, NO BUSINESS

Despite Mr Samal’s certainty, evidence suggests there is some way to go before the illegal timber trade is eradicated in Cambodia, with a well-established, sophisticated system still in place that needs to be dismantled.

In Tbong Khmum, busy roads were full of big trucks. Most of them carried something heavy under huge tarpaulins covering the storage compartment. Tears in the plastic revealed stacks of timber inside.

“Sometimes, what you see is just a hollow frame, with luxury-grade wood hidden in the middle. Nobody checks,” Leng told me as we tailed a small train of timber trucks.

A road sign indicated they were headed towards Trapang Plong International Border Checkpoint. It is one of the main gateways on the timber trail between Cambodia and Vietnam. The area is also home to timber depots, casinos, hotels and inland ports owned by wealthy businessmen.

One of the trucks pulled over at an export customs clearance office. Its driver carried a document in his hands and disappeared through a small entrance.

“He needs an export permit to cross the border,” Leng said.

It did not take long. The driver reemerged, climbed back on his truck and drove off. We followed on a dusty road.

His truck soon joined others that had gone ahead. They were scattered near the border crossing. Some were parked in front of a depot, others a few hundred metres from the international border gate, purportedly ready to enter Vietnam.

Trucks carrying timber usually cross the border late at night, according to Ouch Leng.

“They have to wait for other trucks from the same company because the export permit can only be used once.

“It also indicates the total volume of goods that will cross the border. One truck can carry about 20-30 cubic metres of wood. They usually cross the border late at night,” Leng explained.

“I support the government’s ban. But it’s just a promise that only lasts a short time.”

The sun had already disappeared. There was not much light on the road leading into Vietnam, save for the headlights of transport trucks crossing the border. Their storage compartment was left open. No timber.

But a short walk away, several trucks stood in the dark. Something was covered under big tarpaulins. Leng was sitting by the road with his camera.

“The timber business still operates,” he said.

This is the first in a series of reports on forestry issues in Cambodia. Follow Pichayada Promchertchoo on Twitter @PichayadaCNA

Read Part 2: Cambodian villagers fear for future amid forest burning dispute

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