Fri, Jan 14, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Taiwanese loggers in Cambodia top `Dirty Dozen'

RAPE OF THE FORESTS A report on the state of logging in Cambodia says that four Taiwanese companies are using `intimidation and violence' to wantonly destroy the environment. At least one company may have tacit approval of the government

By Phelim Kyne  /  TAIPEI TIMES CORRESPONDENT IN CAMBODIA

Four Taiwanese logging companies operating in Cambodia have been listed as the nation's "dirtiest" by an environmental group which accuses them of "intimidation and violence" and "serious breaches" of their concession agreements with the Cambodian government.

The four companies -- Pheapimex-Fuchan, Hero Taiwan, Long Day Machinery and Lang Song International -- top the list of twelve logging concessionaires accused in a report by the British environmental watchdog organization Global Witness of "... an alarming variety of serious infractions [of Cambodia's forest code] including poor forest management, illegal logging and intimidation of officials."

The allegations were leveled in The Untouchables: Forest Crimes and the Concessionaires, a report released in Phnom Penh on Jan 11. Global Witness has monitored Cambodia's forest sector and the conduct of its 21 logging concessionaires since 1994, and became an official component of the Cambodian government's Forestry Monitoring Unit in November 1999.

"At least three of the top five of the worst [logging concessionaires] in Cambodia are Taiwanese," explained Global Witness' Director Patrick Alley. "These companies are deliberately and methodically riding roughshod over a poor country to the extreme detriment of Cambodia's people, environment and culture."

Global Witness documents a litany of "forest crimes" committed by the four Taiwanese companies ranging from illegal logging of "spirit forest" areas of Cambodian hill-tribespeople (Hero Taiwan) to illegal military-backed deforestation of Cambodian national parks (Long Day Machinery and Lang Song International).

However, the most damning allegations are leveled at the Taiwanese concessionaire Pheapimex-Fuchan, described by Alley as "by far Cambodia's worst concessionaire ... guilty of intimidation and murder."

According to Alley, close personal links enjoyed by Pheapimex-Fuchan management with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen allows the company to operate with virtual impunity.

"In early 1997 a Pheapimex crew illegally logging within the borders of the Everbright logging concession rocket-launched an Everbright vehicle they came across and killed four people," Alley told the Taipei Times.

"This incident was well-documented by the media in Cambodia but no action was taken against Pheapimex."

The Global Witness report is aimed at addressing the unwillingness of an Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded review of Cambo-dia's forest concessions currently underway to close down logging companies linked to environmental and human rights abuses.

"The ADB just don't get what's going on in this country ... [currently] the forest concessions can't be controlled ... they're too bad, too powerful and too well-connected," he said. "If left to continue the way they are now, they will be entrusted with a future responsibility for Cambo-dian's declining forest resources which they are almost certain to abuse."

Henry Kong, a spokesperson for the logging concessionaires Cambodian Timber Industry Association, dismissed the allegations in the Global Witness report as lacking "any concrete evidence," a point which Alley strenuously denied.

"We have extensively documented the abuses committed by Cambodia's logging concessions," Alley said. "We have photographic and videotape evidence along with Cambodian government documents that back up what we say."

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