Cambodia is seeking Vietnam’s help to curb timber smuggling and crack down on forestry crimes along shared borders.
National Assembly Foreign Affairs commission chairman Chheang Vun made the request to his Vietnamese counterpart during a two-day conference of parliamentarians from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos in Vietnam’s northern province of Quang Ninh over the weekend.
Speaking to reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from Vietnam on Monday, Mr Vun said Cambodia requested Vietnam to curb the import of illegal timber from the Kingdom.
“Our National Assembly asked our Vietnamese counterparts to do all they can to stop illegally-logged timber from entering their country,” he said. “We informed them that the Cambodian government is working hard to crack down on illegal logging, including arresting tycoons who are suspected of being involved.”
Mr Vun noted that Vietnamese nationals are also involved in illegal logging activities and smuggling timber from the Kingdom into their country.
A report from Vietnamese news website Cong Thuong recently said that the country’s General Department of Forestry noted exports of timber and forest products during the first six months this year reached about $5.23 billion, up 20 percent over the same period in 2018.
“It is estimated that for the whole year of 2019, the export value of timber and forest products will reach about $11 billion,” it quoted the department as saying.
Mr Vun noted that preventing illegal logging did not just benefit Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, but also the region and world.
“We have to protect forests to preserve the environment in order to fight global warming,” he said. “Forests play an important role in reducing global warming which affects all humans.”
Srey Vuthy, Agriculture Ministry spokesman, yesterday declined to comment on the Cong Thuong report, saying that he has not seen any official statement from Vietnam regarding its timber revenue.
“We do not know whether their timber revenue has really increased or declined although we are working hard to crack down on forestry crimes in the Kingdom to curb smuggling,” he said. “I can’t comment because I have not yet seen the figures.”
Ouch Leng, an environmental activist, yesterday said that illegally-logged timber from the Kingdom is being smuggled to Vietnam for the EU market.
He said that the timber business with the EU runs into billions of dollars, adding that Vietnam won’t do anything to stop timber smuggling from Cambodia.
“So this also means that the EU is an accomplice in international forestry crimes,” Mr Leng noted.
Recently, two tycoons have been indicted for allegedly running large-scale illegal logging operations in Kratie and Mondulkiri provinces.
More than 40 trucks suspected of being used to transport illegal timber have also been confiscated by the National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention. Some were dismantled before they were destroyed with TNT.