(Adds comment from European Union)
PHNOM PENH May 8 Illegal exports of timber from
Cambodia to Vietnam surged in recent months despite an export
ban aimed at countering rapid deforestation in one Southeast
Asia's poorest countries, an environmentalist group said in a
report on Monday.
The London-based Environmental Investigation Agency
estimated that over 300,000 cubic metres of timber had been
smuggled out of Cambodia since November.
It accused Vietnamese officials of taking bribes from
smugglers to allow the timber to appear legitimate.
"This is the single largest log-smuggling operation that we
have seen for years," Senior Forests Campaigner Jago Wadley
Vietnam's foreign ministry gave no immediate response to a
request for comment on the accusations. Vietnam enforces strict
controls on logging in its forests.
Cambodian government spokesman Phay Siphan said some of the
timber mentioned in the report might have received permission
for export to Vietnam but declined to comment further.
Cambodia has a long-standing ban on log exports, both to
preserve forests and protect rarer trees that provide valuable
woods, like Siamese rosewood.
Early last year, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for
a bigger effort to curb illegal logging and said he had ordered
police to fire on loggers from the air if need be.
At the height of the logging operation, between December and
January 2017, about 100 log carriers were crossing into Vietnam
every day, the EIA said in the report based on an undercover
The environmental campaign group said the timber smuggling
should put in question a deal between Vietnam and the European
Union to ensure that any timber exports to EU countries from
Vietnam are legal.
"We would encourage the authorities of Cambodia and Vietnam
to urgently investigate the reported illegal activities and take
firm action against individuals and companies found to be
involved in illegal logging," George Edgar, the head of the EU
delegation, said in an email to Reuters.
(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)