Cambodia fights to curb illegal logging destruction

One of Asia's worst illegal loggers is being prosecuted by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment following a string of failures to comply with regulations and legal requirements.

The legal action will be taken again Green Elite, a subsidiary of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which has been illegally logging Botum Sakor National Park for the past nine months.

Environmental organisation Global Witness has offered its full support to the Cambodian government's efforts to uphold the law and curb the predations of what it called "one of Asia's most notorious pulp companies".

"If followed through, this would be a crucial first step towards terminating the recent rash of illegal economic concessions that threaten Cambodia's protect area system," said Mike Davis, spokesman for Global Witness.

"We strongly urge other government ministries, the international donor community and other NGOs to support Environment Minister Mok Mareth's action."

APP began cutting down tress in Botum Sakor early last year, and has so far managed to flatten several hundred hectares of rear-mangrove Melaleuca forest, installing wood chipping machinery into the National Park as well as bulldozing a new road across the protected land.

The company's concession contract and its activities have already contravened a range of Cambodian laws, including the 1994 Declaration on Protected Areas, the 2002 Forestry Law, the 2001 Land Law and the 1999 Sub-Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment.

However, the Ministry has chosen to take legal action against APP for failure to comply with legal requirements for environmental impact assessment, as well as a suspension order issued to the company in May 2004.

"Given the range of laws that APP has broken, the Ministry must have faced a difficult choice as to which offence to prosecute them for first," Mr Davis concluded.

"This is an open and shut case. If due legal process is followed, the verdict cannot be in doubt."

By Jane Kettle



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