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Risk Score
89.7
Risk Profile
Higher Risk
Conflict State
No
Log Export Restriction
Yes
Other Timber Export Restrictions
Yes
Import Regulation
No
Legality Risks Click for details on legality risks

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.

Latest Updates Click for latest news from Cambodia
April 30, 2024
Drone footage shows empty landscape from logging in northern Cambodia

The recent video from northern Cambodia shows that hundreds of hectares of forest in the vast Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary have been subject to  clearance. Activists have said that government authorities have done nothing in the years since to prevent supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party from illegally exporting timber to neighboring Vietnam, a major buyer of luxury hardwood.

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February 20, 2024
In Cambodia, an official’s cashew factory churns out timber from a protected forest

A senior Cambodian official notorious for illegal logging appears to be carving out a vast swath of forest in what’s supposed to be a protected area in the country’s north.

 

After the processing of cashews declined in the past few years, the sale of timber from Santana Agro’s cashew factory increased, with allegations that the company had hired outside loggers and colluded with members of the community to gut the forest of all the valuable timber species.

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January 23, 2024
Sanctioned timber baron wins new mining concessions in Cambodia’s Prey Lang

A freeze announced late last year on new mining operations in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary comes with a massive loophole. Try Pheap, a powerful tycoon and adviser to the previous prime minister, controls a company that was last year granted 28,000 hectares  inside the sanctuary to mine iron ore.

 

The name Try Pheap is synonymous with illegal logging in Cambodia, including the trafficking of high-value Siamese rosewood trees that drove the species almost to extinction in the country. While Try Pheap was hit by U.S. sanctions in 2019, his company that holds the mining concessions in Prey Lang, Global Green, isn’t on the sanctions list and appears to be ramping up its operations.

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December 29, 2023
Shrinking civil space and persistent logging: 2023 in review in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia has never been an easy place for activists, but a worrying trend emerged over the course of 2023 that saw environmental and Indigenous activists increasingly placed in the crosshairs of authoritarian governments as a result of their activism.

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December 28, 2023
Shrinking civil space and persistent logging: 2023 in review in Southeast Asia

Mongabay presents a short summary of status of illegal logging and forest governance in SE Asia.

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November 8, 2023
Calls grow to repurpose land squandered in Cambodia’s concession policy

The mismanagement of large swaths of Cambodia’s land by the country’s elites under the policy of economic land concessions has displaced thousands of rural families and accounted for 40% of total deforestation.

 

With even the government seeming to acknowledge the ineffectiveness of ELCs as an economic driver, calls are growing to return the land to dispossessed communities or repurpose them in other ways.

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November 3, 2023
From Cambodia to Thailand, rubber producers brace for new EU rules

European Union rules aimed at stopping deforestation threaten widespread disruption for Southeast Asia’s rubber sector, from Cambodia’s 30,000 small farmers to major exporters in Thailand and Malaysia.

 

The concern for Southeast Asia, critics say, is that these requirements will disproportionately hurt small farmers while failing to adequately address rubber’s role in deforestation.

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October 25, 2023
Thailand’s Rubber Farming a Major Contributor to Deforestation

The deforestation caused by the rubber farming in Thailand and the world has been significantly underestimated, according to new findings from two scientific studies, with Southeast Asian rubber production potentially contributing up to three times more forest depletion than previously thought.

With over 4 million hectares of forest lost for rubber production since 1993, an area the size of Switzerland, “the effects of rubber on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Southeast Asia could be extensive,” according to a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

 

In Southeast Asia, mature rubber plantations covered 14.2 million hectares. Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam accounted for more than 70% of these plantations.

China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos were also important rubber-producing countries. Rubber plantations that were closed down before 2021 were excluded from the analysis, despite the fact that they may have contributed to deforestation.

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October 25, 2023
Thailand’s Rubber Farming a Major Contributor to Deforestation

The deforestation caused by the rubber farming in Thailand and the world has been significantly underestimated, according to new findings from two scientific studies, with Southeast Asian rubber production potentially contributing up to three times more forest depletion than previously thought.

With over 4 million hectares of forest lost for rubber production since 1993, an area the size of Switzerland, “the effects of rubber on biodiversity and ecosystem services in Southeast Asia could be extensive,” according to a paper published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

 

In Southeast Asia, mature rubber plantations covered 14.2 million hectares. Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam accounted for more than 70% of these plantations.

China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos were also important rubber-producing countries. Rubber plantations that were closed down before 2021 were excluded from the analysis, despite the fact that they may have contributed to deforestation.

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August 31, 2023
Cambodia approves, then suspends, marble mine in Keo Seima REDD+ project

The Cambodian government has suspended a planned marble mine inside a wildlife sanctuary that it had approved just months earlier.

 

It’s not clear why this commercial extractive concession inside a protected area was approved in the first place, or why it’s now been suspended (but not canceled).

 

The mine would have threatened an important REDD+ project in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary that benefits both local communities and the area’s biodiversity.

 

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August 15, 2023
Behind Cambodia's big bet on REDD+ projects

Cambodia’s leaders are anxious to prove to the world that the forest conservation mechanism can address climate change while providing opportunities for people to thrive in a “new Cambodia”. But there are concerns about greenwash, and observers point to how such projects can end up being a guise for illicit land grabbing by ruling elites.

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June 12, 2023
Crackdowns on illegal logging ahead of polls

Various ministries have established strict action plans to prevent illegal logging and illegal clearing of state lands during the national election.

 

 

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June 6, 2023
License to Log: Cambodian military facilitates logging on Koh Kong Krao and across the Cardamoms

Cambodia’s largest island, Koh Kong Krao, off its southwest coast, is covered in largely untouched old-growth forest, but recent satellite imagery shows deforestation is spreading.

 

Much of the forest cover loss is in areas tightly controlled by Marine Brigade 2, a navy unit stationed on the island that has historically been accused of facilitating the illicit timber trade.

 

Residents of the island said the navy controls almost every aspect of life there, with provincial officials afraid to intervene or investigate the military’s actions on Koh Kong Krao.

 

Cambodia’s military has long been a key factor in illegal logging across the country, and reporters found evidence of its continued involvement in logging across the Cardamoms.

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June 2, 2023
Huge increase in transnational crime and synthetic drugs in SE Asia requires cross-border cooperation

Thailand, Laos and Myanmar are at the frontlines of illicit trade in Asia dominated by transnational organized crime syndicates.

 

The trafficking in illegal narcotics, precursor chemicals, timber and wildlife, people and illicit goods across Southeast Asia is being tackled thanks to the support of the specialized UN agency focusing on drugs and crime.

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April 4, 2023
Activists find illegal logging evidence in protected area in northern Cambodia

Forest protection activists found more than 200 fallen trees that had been illegally cut down in a vast protected area of northern Cambodia that showed signs of around-the-clock operations, transport trucks, motorcycles and armed security.

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March 15, 2023
High-ranking officials grabbing land, claims NGO

This article covers NGO claims that land grabbing in Cardamom mountain’s state forest “is done by people in high positions who are looking to sell the state land illegally”.

 

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra said the ministry has been enforcing forestry laws strictly to prevent crime in the Cardamom mountain and forest reserves and sanctuaries throughout the Kingdom. “Legal action has been taken against government officials and other offenders for serious forestry crime,” said Pheaktra.

 

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March 8, 2023
Cambodian prison official suspected in massive legalized logging operation

A Mongabay investigation indicates that a three-star military general who also serves as a top interior ministry official appears to be the notorious illegal logger known as Oknha Chey.

 

Family and business ties link Meuk Saphannareth to logging operations in northern Cambodia that satellite imagery shows are clearing forest well outside their concession boundaries.

 

While Stung Treng residents living near the forest were all familiar with the nickname Oknha Chey, none could provide his real name or that of his company. Most simply said they believed it was a South Korean company operating the sawmills and taking the timber, but that this company was under Oknha Chey’s control.

 

The South Korean connection stems from a March 11, 2022, letter from Cambodia’s cabinet, formally known as the Council of Ministers, seen by Mongabay, which announced that a 9,788-hectare (24,187-acre) economic land concession had been issued to Horizon Agriculture Development. The move prompted rights groups to question whether the government had violated its own 2012 moratorium on issuing new economic land concessions.

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June 30, 2022
Illegal logging in Mondulkiri soars after border reopens

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.

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April 28, 2022
District Unity Command cracks down on illegal logging site

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.

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April 26, 2022
A decade after activist’s death, rights groups in Cambodia press for answers

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.

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April 13, 2022
Cambodia Targets Environmental Activism

In its latest crackdown, the government has arrested several members of the Mother Nature group.

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April 7, 2022
Amnesty International Partners With Planet to Tackle Deforestation in Cambodia

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.

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March 25, 2022
More that 800 forest crimes, land grabs and illegal wildlife hunting reported last year

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.

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March 22, 2022
Measures against illegal logging a success, says committee

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.

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February 18, 2022
Almost no harvesting and exporting of luxury wood in Preah Vihear since C-19

The Preah Vihear Provincial authorities will go hard on anyone trying to smuggle out luxury-grade wood to Thailand or neighbouring countries.

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February 16, 2022
Forest crime still rampant in Cambodia: NGO

Forest crime, including illegal logging and transportation of timber, is rampant in the Cardamom Mountains Wildlife Sanctuary, according to the environmental watchdog ACNCIPO.

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January 28, 2022
Illegal logging threatens Cambodia’s indigenous people, says Amnesty

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.

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December 23, 2021
Tbong Khmum getting tough on illegal timber trade

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.

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December 9, 2021
Why has illegal logging increased in the Greater Mekong?

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.

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December 3, 2021
Cambodia, Vietnam commit to cooperation on forest sector

Cambodia and Vietnam have expressed their commitment to strengthen forest sector cooperation, mainly combating the cross-border trade of timber and wild animals.

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Publications Click for publications related to Cambodia
While subsistence agriculture and logging still contribute to deforestation, commercial-scale agricultural expansion is now recognized as by far the single largest driver of deforestation worldwide and thus also of greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change. Several initiatives have quantified how much and where deforestation is driven by commercial agriculture, and even how much of this […]
This report analyzes the trade of logs and sawnwood from natural forests imported from Cambodia to Vietnam between 2013 and 2015, publishing detailed statistics provided by the General Department of Vietnam Customs for the first time.
Key Resources
Click here for a collection of Forest Trends publications related to IDAT Risk, including the full set of Timber Legality Risk Country Dashboards.
Methodology
Click here to download the Methodology which includes information on data sources, the methodology used to create risk indicators, and a glossary of key terms.
Data Tools

Click here to access the Global Illegal Logging and Associated Trade (ILAT) Risk assessment tool and to download the Forest Trends User Guide describing the functionality of the ILAT Risk Data Tool.

Click here to access the Cattle Data Tool.

Export Restrictions
Click here to download a database of forest policy export restrictions.