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Illegal Timber to Become School Buildings

Ven Rathavong and Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen said all illegally logged wood that has been confiscated will go to the Education Ministry for building schools. KT/Ven Rathavong

Cambodia’s schoolchildren could soon attend class in unusually luxurious buildings if Prime Minister Hun Sen has his way. Yesterday the premier granted the government’s entire stockpile of illegally-felled timber – some of which is highly sought after rosewood – to the Ministry of Education to construct new school buildings.   
A request to build more schools in the Kingdom was made by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron during the closing ceremony of his ministry’s annual meeting. Shortly after, the premier made his announcement about where the wood would come from.
Mr. Hun Sen ordered all relevant officials to facilitate the process, also calling for courts to expedite crucial case hearings related to confiscated timber so it could be used more quickly by the education ministry.
Mr. Naron made his request in light of challenges faced by the ministry, one of which is the need for 200 new school buildings.
“The ministry received requests from all provinces to construct more than 200 school buildings,” he said.
 Mr. Hun Sen said about 30,000 to 40,000 cubic meters of timber had been confiscated from loggers during this year’s Anti-Deforestation campaign.
“So please, Hang Chuon Naron, manage the [logs],” Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that Mr. Naron should use the timber to build schools, school equipment, chairs, windows, gates and housing for teachers.
Mr. Hun Sen added that previously, confiscated logs were auctioned off for export, saying the new measure to grant timber to the Education Ministry would help halt illegal logging.
“From now on, all illegal logs which have been confiscated will be used in the education sector,” he said.
 “After they have been confiscated, please give them to the Education Ministry.”
He also instructed Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth to not cut the national budget for the Education Ministry, adding that the confiscated timber will be used to supplement the construction of what it already lacks.
Military Police and National Anti-Deforestation Committee spokesman Eng Hy told Khmer Times that the number of confiscated illegal logs will be counted next week.
“The technical commission has finished confiscating illegal logs in Tbong Khmum, Kratie, Ratanakiri and Stung Treng provinces, but we have not finished in Mondulkiri province yet,” he said.
“We welcome the premier’s measure, because so far, the confiscated logs have been put up for ‘Dutch auction’. [All the money from the auctions] was put into the national revenue,” Mr. Hy said, adding that that solution was not as effective as Mr. Hun Sen’s new measure.
The National Anti-Deforestation Committee was created by the prime minister on January 15 this year. It is comprised of 10 members, all from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Environment and the governors of the provinces along the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
While the committee has been praised for cracking down on some illegal logging operations, it has faced a wave of criticism over mysterious fires at certain illegal logging sites directly after visits by their officials. Mr. Hun Sen even slammed the committee last month for not catching enough illegal timber and working too slowly.

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