Cambodia has seen high rates of forest loss over the last few decades. Between 1973 and 1993 the country saw an annual rate of forest loss of approximately 0.5 percent. Such losses were reportedly caused by commercial logging and 30 years of civil war and political instability. As deforestation rates continued to increase, the government banned log exports in 1996, joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1997 and instituted a concession system. Between 1994 and 1997, the government granted 36 forest concessions that collectively covered 7 million hectares. Reports have estimated that 95 percent of the timber harvested between 1997 and 1998 was illegally felled. The government of Cambodia adopted a logging moratorium in 2002. The restrictions did not apply to other types of concessions in the country. Timber may be sold or exported from agriculture and infrastructure concessions, as well as community forestry areas, social land concessions and privately owned or managed plantations.
Cambodia lost almost 2.5 million hectares of tree cover between 2001 to 2020, a 28 percent loss in tree cover since 2000. The annual rate of loss increased by more than 400 percent over the same period with nearly 150,000 ha of loss occurring in 2020 alone, of which nearly half (43 percent) was to natural forest.
- There is a high risk of illegal logging and trade for timber products originating from Cambodia.
- Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) for infrastructure and commercial agriculture projects allow “pseudo-legal timber extraction, saw-milling, and wood transportation” as well as “the laundering of illegally harvested timber in equal, if not greater, proportions.” Using the ELC system as a tool for timber harvesting in natural forests is rampant but considered illegal. Corruption is reportedly a concern in the allocation of ELCs.
- NGOs continue to document incidents of illegal logging in protected areas.
- There remains a risk of unsustainable and illegal trade in Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)-listed species.
- Enforcement is weak and hampered by corruption.
- Historically, there has been a risk of illegal cross-border trade to Vietnam but this has reportedly declined in recent years.
Read more by downloading the Cambodia Timber Legality Risk Dashboard here.
Illegal logging is on the rise in Sre Pok Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondulkiri province, with timber traders rushing to move the luxury wood along smuggling routes into Vietnam, right under the noses of local authorities.
Suppression of forestry continues, as the authorities conducted a crackdown on an illegal logging site in Kampong Speu. The crackdown was conducted on April 27 at Po Tbeng Village, Nitan Commune, Bor Seth District, Kampong Speu. Bor Seth District Unity Command, led by Sin Sarun, District Administration Director, raided the illegal logging site and seized some materials.
Cambodian environmentalists called for authorities to reinvestigate the 2012 murder of a forestry activist, who was slain while campaigning against illegal logging, a problem that has gotten worse in the decade since his killing. Chut Wutty was shot to death on April 26, 2012 while investigating illegal logging in southern Cambodia’s Koh Kong province.
Planet Labs PBC (NYSE: PL), a leading provider of daily data and insights about Earth, today shared a recent project tackling deforestation in Cambodia with Amnesty International, an international non-governmental organization focused on human rights. With Planet’s daily satellite monitoring capabilities, Amnesty International is working to identify and shed light on environmental and human rights abuses in the region. Using Planet’s datasets, Amnesty International is currently working to protect the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary, southeast Asia’s largest lowland evergreen forest spanning approximately 500,000 hectares across four provinces of Cambodia. Designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 2016, Prey Lang is government-protected land, containing diverse flora and fauna. This land plays a vital role in the traditions, local customs, and beliefs of indigenous people and local communities. Yet, recent events have weakened the sanctuary’s natural defenses and degraded its borders.
There were 811 cases of forest crimes, land grabs, and illegal hunting of wildlife reported last year, and of the number 320 involved in forest crimes were fined while another 491 were taken to court.
The National Committee for Forest Crime Prevention has touted its tougher measures to suppress illegal logging across the country as a success despite small-scale ones are still occurring. More than five years since its inception, the committee handled two high-profile cases related to the arrests of two tycoons infamous for illegal logging in 2019.
The Preah Vihear Provincial authorities will go hard on anyone trying to smuggle out luxury-grade wood to Thailand or neighbouring countries.
Rampant illegal logging of protected forests is threatening the cultural survival and livelihoods of indigenous people in Cambodia, according to Amnesty International. Members of the Kuy people, one of the largest of Cambodia’s 24 indigenous groups, told Amnesty how deforestation in two protected forests, along with government restrictions on access have undermined their way of life and violated their human rights.
Tbong Khmum provincial deputy governor Cheng Bunnara has ordered district police officers to identify illegal wood processing facilities in their respective jurisdiction and instruct the owners to apply for a permit before resuming their business. Bunnara said that in order to bring the activities of illegal timber processing facilities under control and crack down on the illegal timber trade in protected areas, the owners of all such facilities have to follow procedure and apply for permits to continue operating.
In recent decades, rich tropical forests of the Greater Mekong region have been steadily depleted by the world’s growing appetite for timber. Recognizing the impact of the timber trade on natural forests, governments in the Greater Mekong region have come up with laws to regulate logging and timber exports.
Cambodia and Vietnam have expressed their commitment to strengthen forest sector cooperation, mainly combating the cross-border trade of timber and wild animals.