Leaders in the former Khmer Rouge stronghold of Pailin have denied that the government signed a deal in January allowing them to export $60 million of wood.
Suong Sikoeun, a spokesman for the Democratic National Union Movement (DNUM), threatened in an April 2 statement to file a court complaint if the Khmer-language newspaper Serei Pheap Thmei (New Liberty News) continued to publish “distortions.”
“The members of DNUM would like to strongly refute this distortion and clarify that from the past until the present [DNUM President] Ieng Sary has never been involved in these things,” Suong Sikoeun stated. “Ieng Sary is a leader who is clean, and not greedy for money, rank or power. He has decided to devote his last days to happiness, quiet and comfort in leading the DNUM.”
Ieng Sary, a former Khmer Rouge deputy premier, is president of a political movement made up of former Khmer Rouge soldiers and civilians living primarily in Pailin and Phnom Malai.
Environmental watchdog Global Witness charged last month that the two prime ministers in January approved the export of $60 million of processed timber from Pailin. The London-based group said the agreements didn’t specify dates, location, recipient or grade of wood.
“By authorizing these deals without any specifics, it’s like giving a blank check to Ieng Sary,” Patrick Alley, a Global Witness director, said then.
A document reviewed by The Cambodia Daily indicated that the two prime ministers, the co-ministers in charge of the Council of Ministers and a Pailin governor approved the export deal.
Exporting processed wood isn’t illegal, but the wood must come from a legal concession and cross only at designated border checkpoints.
Deforestation is dramatic along the road from Pailin to Phnom Malai.
Last week, Chun Bunny, Malai district chief, denied that logs were being exported and said trees were being cut only for building houses. But mototaxi drivers said they had seen logs crossing the border south of Phnom Malai. (Additional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)
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