Cambodian logs to Thailand

Cambodian logs to Thailand - April 6, 2004
Global Witness was expelled from Cambodia for bringing to light activities like this (from a press release from Global Witness, 'Laundering of illegal timber undermines forestry reform in Cambodia,' February 20, 2004): In 2000, the Thai company Thitikarn Ltd. obtained a permit authorising it to collect "branches and tree stumps" in Oddar Meanchey province. Instead, it purchases square logs from military-supervised illegal logging operations which focus on stripping out the province’s remaining stands of luxury timber trees. In mid 2003 the company was each month exporting 600 cubic metres of luxury wood, worth approximately $345,000, to Thailand. Thitikarn operates under the protection of Oddar Meanchey Governor Lay Virak and deputy governor Mao Tim, as well as units of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, police, military police, border police, customs authorities and Ministry of Environment officials.
Amidst a recent high-profile crackdown on luxury timber dealers in Siem Reap and Oddar Meanchey provinces orchestrated by the Forest Administration, Thitikarn continues to operate uninterrupted. As of the end of January, its compound in O’Pouk village, near O’Smach, contained at least 700 cubic metres of illegally-harvested luxury wood, guarded by Battalion 42 soldiers commanded by Colonel Meak Vong.
The impunity which Cambodian officials grant Thitikarn contrasts with the action taken by Thai authorities in August 2003, when Thai Forestry Police raided a Thitikarn warehouse in Bang Na, Thailand, seizing luxury wood from Cambodia and Laos worth around $250,000. Protesting the raid, Thitikarn publicly defended its plunder of Cambodia’s natural resources; claiming that by confining its operations to Cambodia, this would help reduce illegal logging in Thailand.
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