The government has granted a private company an export licence to transport $15 million worth of illegal timber bought at an auction last year to Vietnam, documents show.
According to leaked documents obtained yesterday, Ung Sam Ath, director of the Forestry Administration, and Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak signed two documents on July 6 and 7 to provide a licence for the export of Grade 1 timber to V. Energy Logistics, which bought $15 million worth of confiscated timber in October 2016.
The first document stated that V. Energy Logistics had a licence to export 543,050 cubic metres of squared and rectangular wood, with a maximum width of 25cm, at a total price of $27,695,550 to Five Star International Manufacturer and General Business in Ho Chi Min City.
The second document provides a licence to export 779,950 cubic metres of Grade 1 timber at a total price of $39,777,450 to the same company.
Both licences are valid until September 7.
V. Energy Logistics is the only company that bid for 60,000 cubic metres of seized wood in October 2016 at an auction run by the National Anti-Deforestation Committee. Regulations state such auctions need at least three bidders to be valid.
According to the report from the subcommittee, the 60,000 cubic metres of wood, mostly luxury grade, originated from four provinces.
Most of the timber came from three companies in Mondulkiri province – 26,163 cubic metres were seized from Dai Nam, 12,485 cubic metres from Dai Than and 12,833 cubic metres from the Khmer Angkor Agriculture Company.
Prime Minister Hun Sen created NADC in January last year to address claims of widespread, open-faced deforestation in the northern provinces.
The committee made a point of publicising their raids, highlighting the vast stores of timber they were confiscating before its illegal transport to Vietnam.
Soeung Sophary, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Commerce, and Sao Sopheap, spokesman for Ministry of Environment, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
V Energy Logistic manager Ung Sitatvila also could not be reached for comment. Ouch Leng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force and an environmental activist, said the auction of the seized wood and recently granted export licence was just a way to legalise illegal activity.