The Ministry of Environment has disputed an environmental NGO report that large-scale illegal logging continues unabated, with large quantities of timber being transported to Vietnam.
The report, released by US-based NGO Forest Trends on Wednesday, said 313,000 cubic metres of timber valued at $142 million was registered by Vietnamese customs between January and June, including sawn wood and raw logs.
On Thursday, the Environment Ministry said the report was misleading and aimed at distorting public opinion of the ministry’s efforts to battle illegal logging.
“The Ministry of Environment has highlighted that large-scale forest crime is no longer in Cambodia, and that relevant authorities are continuing to curb and eradicate small-scale crimes while also increasing the effectiveness of forestry protection and management of natural resources,” the ministry said.
“Preliminary results of Cambodia’s forest cover review in 2016 show that the total area of forest cover in Cambodia accounted for 45.26 percent of the country’s total area.
“The rate of loss of forest cover in Cambodia in the last two years has decreased.”
Environment Minister Say Samal said he was not outright denying the NGO’s report, but clarifying that it inflated some numbers and was not 100 percent accurate.
“We did not deny the report, we just showed them the real statistics,” he said yesterday.
“The forest crime crackdown strategy is to close the border gates, and at the same time, Vietnam has publicly announced that they will not allow logging in the central region and timber factories will be closed.
“China is also trying to reform so their influence is decreasing the market,” he added.
Xuan Phuc, a regional trade and finance analyst for Forest Trends, said he did not agree with the ministry’s stance.
“If you go to the border areas, you see a lot of logs and sawn wood imported into Vietnam from Cambodia,” he said.
“In fact, Vietnam customs has recorded the import of logs and sawn wood very well.”
“Maybe the central government of Cambodia wants to stop it, but not local governments,” he added. “This means there’s loopholes and inconsistency between central and local governments and ongoing lobbying by powerful traders.”