Hun Sen tells forestry authority to prevent smuggling

Phnom Penh: Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday told the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention and other officials to continue to crack down on illegal logging and prevent the export of illegal logs.

Mr Hun Sen made the statement during a speech at the closing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries annual conference.

“The NCFCP, which is being led by [General] Sao Sokha, must continue to strengthen the management of natural resources, especially in curbing the export of timber and other forest products at the border with efficiency and transparency,” he said, adding that trees should be replanted in empty state lands.

According to an NCFCP report, officials cracked down on more than 330 forestry crimes throughout the Kingdom last year. It added that 65 people are facing prosecution and a working group confiscated more than 4,000 cubic metres of timber.

Gen Sokha, who is head of NCFCP and deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said small-scale smuggling of logs still occur and is a challenge that needs to be addressed.

“The reason why Samdech Hun Sen made the statement is because there is still small-scale operations aiming to secretly export timber,” he said. “Right now we are trying to curb this.”

“These are people who do have the permission to export timber, but still take the time to smuggle some out,” Gen Sokha added. “Some villagers may also be involved in the smuggling. We don’t deny this and we are now educating our people.”

Last year, the UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency called for a rosewood trade suspension against Vietnam, accusing it of accepting fake Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species permits from Cambodia.

It said that: “Cambodia’s submission describes how the trees were harvested illegally and imported into Vietnam under fake CITES permits notwithstanding that they [Vietnam’s CITES management authority] had been previously informed on several occasions of the illegality of those permits”.

At the time, Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said Cambodia and Vietnam have been cooperating with each other in order to curb illegal logging.

“Cambodia and Vietnam are working together to combat illegal logging,” Mr Pheaktra said.

In 2017, the value of logs and sawn wood exported from Cambodia to Vietnam increased by about $31.5 million compared to 2016, customs data showed.