Cambodian government’s timber export figures belie export ban

A non-governmental organization in Cambodia claimed that as much as US$ 173 million worth of sawn timber were exported to Vietnam last year against the government’s figures of little more than US$ 5 million, according to The Phnom Penh Post Online on Wednesday (Mar 28).

Forest Trends, in February, claimed that its figures of $173 million were sourced from information from Vietnam’s General Department of Customs. The export figures matched with the data produced by the watchdog group, Environmental Investigation Agency.

The government’s figures of $5 million worth of sawn timber exports came from Cambodia’s Department of Customs and Excise and the National Bank of Cambodia.

The Environment Ministry has contested the NGO’s data as unofficial as it did not come directly from the Vietnamese government.

Jago Wadley, a senior forest campaigner for EIA, said Cambodia’s ban on unsawn logs is understood to be universal while a moratorium on sawn timber may only apply to exports to Vietnam. He said documentation of the latter is hard to come by, with the directive seemingly coming straight from Hun Sen.

Asked to comment on the discrepancy of the two figures, Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap directed all inquiries to the Ministry of Agricuture. Calls to the National Bank and the Commerce Ministry to clarify the nature of the statistics also went unanswered.