The Anti-Sam Rainsy Law

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

[Vietnamization: Environmental destruction, Logging, Military, Border] Cambodia probes claims of large-scale wood smuggling

Cambodia probes claims of large-scale wood smuggling

The Straits Times | 17 May 2017

Cambodia is investigating claims of large-scale logging and timber smuggling to Vietnam that was highlighted in a recent investigative report.
The kingdom's Environment Minister Say Sam Al was quoted by The Cambodia Daily as saying that investigations had been going on for "about a year", but refused to disclose more details about the probe.
He made the comments on Sunday, about a week after the release of a report by Britain- and US-based non-profit organisation Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which highlighted how Vietnam's companies are violating a Cambodian ban on timber exports with help from complicit government officials and military personnel.
According to the report, in just three months, from last December to February this year, at least 300,000 cubic m of timber was stolen or smuggled out of Cambodia into Vietnam. That is enough timber to fill more than 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools by volume.
The wood, however, is laundered through a quota system in Vietnam, giving it lawful status in the country and even making it taxable. The trade itself is worth at least US$75 million (S$104.8 million) and estimated kickbacks are worth more than US$13 million.
"The blatant illegal logging witnessed by EIA in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province represents a criminal conspiracy between elements of the Vietnamese government, well-connected timber companies and corrupt Cambodian officials," said the EIA report.
Responding to the report, Mr Sam Al said "some of the claims are new", but some were "already part of our investigation".
According to the report, in just three months, from last December to February this year, at least 300,000 cubic m of timber was stolen or smuggled out of Cambodia into Vietnam. That is enough timber to fill more than 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools by volume.
Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in response to The Straits Times' queries, said the country "strictly observes" international commitments.
"Vietnam law strictly prohibits smuggling, including illegal logging. All acts of smuggling, including illegal logging, shall be seriously dealt with in line with the rule of law in Vietnam," it said in an e-mailed statement. "Vietnam and Cambodia regularly maintain close cooperation in stopping smuggling, including illegal logging."
Rapid deforestation has prompted regional governments to ban logging or raw timber exports in recent years. Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia are among those with active bans. Myanmar imposed a one-year moratorium on logging, which was lifted in March. That same month, China announced that it had halted commercial logging in forests.
But the region's wood processing and hardwood furniture industries continue to thrive, fuelling an underground trade in illicit timber from countries where policing is weak.
Vietnam is one of the world's top wood processors, having exported US$7.3 billion worth of wood and wood products last year.
EIA's report notes that until 2015, Laos - even with a log export ban - was the largest supplier of timber to Vietnam by value. But tightened controls by Laos last year shrivelled the supply.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese imports of logs from Cambodia have grown, in part aided by Hanoi's move in 2014 to deregulate trade in timber from Cambodia. It removed import document requirements and allowed such trades to take place through any border gate.


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