World Bulletin / News Desk
A new report Monday claims national parks in Cambodia have been gutted to launder illegally logged wood into the Vietnamese timber economy by officials from both countries.
The report released after midnight Sunday comes after a months-long investigation carried out by the London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and just days before Vietnamese and EU officials are set to have talks about the legality of timber exports from Vietnam.
Researchers found officials in Cambodia are receiving kickbacks worth millions of dollars to allow the logging of two community-protected areas and a wildlife sanctuary in Ratanakiri, a province that abuts the Vietnamese border. The report said the protected areas were funded by the EU.
The logging was carried out “on unprecedented scales” between November 2016 and March, the EIA said, which directly flouts not only the protected status of those areas, where logging is supposed to be illegal, but also a timber export ban that Cambodia introduced last year, when a forest crimes task force was set up by the government.
The bribery continues on the Vietnamese side of the border, where officials are paid off by timber smugglers.
"Rather than rejecting this illegal wood, Vietnamese state and security officials have issued and administered formal quotas to give it lawful status in Vietnam’s economy. These quotas have incentivized and facilitated massive illegal logging in neighboring Cambodia, precisely at a time when that country is publicly seeking to stop all timber trade with Vietnam," the investigators found.
This is significant, because Vietnam is looking to ink a timber export deal for the EU market; but the bloc has said it will only accept legally sourced timber.
Questions sent Sunday by Anadolu Agency seeking comment from the EU Embassy in Phnom Penh and Sao Sopheap, spokesman for Cambodia’s Environment Ministry, were not responded to at the time of this writing.
Investigators estimate at least 300,000 cubic meters have been illegally logged and transported to Vietnam.
Questions were sent to the EU Embassy in Phnom Penh and Sao Sopheap, spokesman for Cambodia’s Environment Ministry, on Sunday.
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