Seized Timber Up for Auction

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Some of the timber confiscated by the National Anti-Deforestation Committee. Supplied

More than $90,000 worth of luxury timber seized during National Anti-Deforestation Committee (NADC) raids in Stung Treng province will be up for public auction until July 29, the Ministry of Economic and Finance announced last week.
 
Signed by ministry Undersecretary of State Soung Meng Kea, who chairs the subcommittee on tree and timber bidding, the announcement was released on Thursday. It said the 265 cubic-meter stockpile would be stored by the NADC in multiple locations in Stung Treng ahead of the auction, which started on Sunday.
 
Bids for the luxury wood are being accepted at the Ministry of Environment and the Forestry Administration during working hours.
 
Any individual without a history of committing forestry offenses or public debt may place bids, the ministry said.
 
In early May, during a graduation ceremony at the Vanda Institute on Koh Pich, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government would give 7,000 cubic meters of confiscated timber to the Ministry of Education to build schools and teachers’ homes.
 
But when it became clear the Education Ministry would not be able to cut, process and refine the wood, Mr. Hun Sen decided to auction it off and give the funds received to the Ministry of Education.
 
“The money which we get from the bids on the illegally logged wood will be used in the education sector,” the prime minister said.  
 
Mr. Meng Kea could not be reached for comment on the Stung Treng auction yesterday.
 
President of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF) and environmental activist Ouch Leng said the ministry seemed to be conducting itself transparently by opening the auction to all people, but added that this did not entirely end his concerns.
 
“We observed that so far, the auction has always been delayed because traders know clearly that there is not as much timber as the ministry mentioned. The auction is still a mystery,” Mr. Leng said.
 
He added that the practice of shipping illegal timber to neighboring countries by large coorporations is ongoing, giving the specific names of the companies he had observed doing so.
 
The Dai Than Company, the Khmer Angkor Agriculture Company, Master K Son, the Lim Royal Company, the UniGreen Company and Binh Phoek have removed all their remaining stockpiles of illegal timber, Mr. Leng said, adding: “We have seen almost every day, they attempt to deliver the timber to neighboring countries.”
 
In a speech on June 5 at Entrak Tevy High School in celebration of World Environment Day, Minister of Environment Say Samal said illegal logging had ended in the Kingdom, with many commentators saying the announcement was made prematurely.
 
“For forestry problems, I can tell you today this time on Environment Day that the mass logging which we have seen so far is completely ended. Mass logging, I can say it is finished,” Mr. Samal said.
 
The auction for the Kingdom’s stockpile of seized luxury timber had been postponed multiple times before the Stung Treng auction was given the go-ahead last week.
 
One auction, of 60,000 cubic meters of wood seized in Mondulkiri province, was scheduled to start on June 27, but was delayed because
the Ministry of Economy and Finance said there were not enough buyers for the wood.
 
The wood had been seized from seven private companies and was worth more than $12 million, according to the ministry.

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