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Case Number: 63

Case Identifier: KHMER

Case Name: Khmer Rouge and Wood Exports


1. Abstract

On September 22, 1992, Cambodia's provisional national council agreed to a moratorium on log exports. One reason for the moratorium was that intensive deforestation caused massive flooding in Cambodia. Severe floods damaged the rice crop and led to food shortages in this poor country. Another objective of the moratorium was aimed at depriving the Khmer Rouge an extreme Maoist guerrilla faction access to funding. Khmer Rouge guerrillas benefited from uncontrolled deforestation. The guerrilla faction exported timbers to Thailand that banned logging in its own territory following severe flooding in 1988. This moratorium brought about a dispute on the relation between trade, environment, and politics in Cambodia.

2. Description

Cambodian floods of 1995 in the northwest killed two people and cut the country's main supply line to areas threatened by food shortages seriously threatening the rice crop. In Battambang province, two children and 77 cows were swept away.(1) Severe flooding in the west central province of Pursat killed eight people, which included seven children, devastated 421 homes, and destroyed 36,235 hectares of rice fields, and killing at least 80 farm animals.(2)

This disastrous flooding resulted from long-standing deforestation. Cambodia's forests have been devastated by the 20 years of Cambodian conflict, where funds for armies are often paid for through raw log exports, especially to Thailand. The conflict involves four factions Front Uni National pour un Cambodge Independent, Neutre, Pacifique et Coop ratif (FUNCINPEC), Khmer People's National liberation Front (KPNLF), the Party of Democratic Kampuchea (DK or so-called Khmer Rouge), and the State of Cambodia (SOC).

Until the ban on log exports was enacted, all three guerrilla factions (FUNCINPEC, KPNLF, and Khmer Rouge) and the SOC government had been involved in logging; which financed their warfare efforts. While the government exported mostly to Japan and Vietnam, the three guerrilla groups (mostly Khmer Rouge) sent logs over the border into Thailand from their territory in western and northern Cambodia.

Thailand had been dependent on imports of timber from neighboring Burma, Laos and Cambodia since a logging ban was introduced in 1989. In an attempt to save what remains of Thailand's devastated forests, many Thai companies (some linked to Thai military) imported wood from Cambodia by purchasing concessions from the Khmer Rouge. Khmer Rouge controlled a huge part of the ThaiȘCambodia border zone (see THAILOG case).

The Thai government advocated a cease fire in Cambodia. However, this was not welcomed by some Thai government leaders who were connected with logging by the military. They actually wanted the continuation of Cambodian conflict. This conflict and massive logging seemed to end when four factions signed the cease fire agreement in France. In October 1991, the Paris Agreements provided for a comprehensive political settlement of the Cambodian conflict. They requested: (a) establishment of a transitional authority to end two decades of war, destruction and suffering; (b) creation of conditions for a lasting peace; (c) the holding of free and democratic elections. The elections involved the participation by the four major parties FUNCINPEC, KPNLF, Khmer Rouge, and SOC. Under the agreement, the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established on 28 February 1992. The four factions recognized the Supreme National Council of Cambodia (SNC) as the legitimate governing body during the transition period.

The Khmer Rouge often violated the cease fire agreement and tried to disturb the free and democratic election process. On 22 September 1992, SNC agreed to activate a moratorium on log exports. Following this agreement, the UN Security Council adopted the 22 September moratorium (the UN Security Council resolution 792, adopted on 30 November). The UN resolution also urged the importing countries to cooperate within this region. Under the resolution, UNTAC was asked to take measures to implement a moratorium on the export of logs from Cambodia. The ban was enacted on January 1, 1993.

This ban was devastating for the Thai military and logging companies. In order to protest the UN Security Council resolution 792, Thailand barred scheduled United Nations flights (the UN peacekeepers flied regular logistical flights to Bangkok and Utapao airport to the southeast of the Thai capital) from neighboring Cambodia on 1 December 1992. The Thai parliament's House Committee for Foreign Affairs agreed to seek measures to minimize the effect of a UN Security Council ban on oil exports to end timber imports from Khmer Rouge controlled areas in Cambodia. Thailand obeyed the ban ostensibly, but the illegal timber trade continued. Although underground log trade between Thailand and Khmer Rouge continued, the United Nations ban worked well and reduced the exporting logs from Cambodia.

On 31 March 1994, the United Nations ban was expired. The Royal Cambodian government, established after the UN supported election, introduced a domestic ban on timber export (enacted on May 1, 1994). Although this ban made timber trade between Thailand and Khmer Rouge illegal; the trading still continued. Illegal logging exports to Thailand also came from Royal Cambodian military. While Cambodian national budget law says all state revenues must be controlled by the finance ministry, the jurisdiction of timber selling was allocated to the defense ministry. The defense ministry is thought to have begun timber trade with Thailand. Because the Cambodian government was afraid of pressure from the IMF, it changed the jurisdiction of timber selling from the defense ministry to finance ministry.(3)

The Royal Cambodian government ended illegal logging exports by the Cambodian military. But the next threat to Cambodian forests came from a government decision. Cambodia's co Premiers, Prince Norodom Ranarriddh and Hun Sen authorized a logging contract with a Malaysian company (Samling Corporation) in February 1995.(4) The deal provides for a 60 year logging concession covering 800,000 hectares or 4 percent of the entire country. The Royal Government also approved a massive logging deal with an Indonesian timber company (Panin Banking and Property Group). The 50 year contract signed in mid©September allows the Indonesian company to harvest logs on 1.4 million hectares, roughly 15 percent of the Kingdom's remaining forest.(5) Although ban on logging exists, deforestation continues.

3. Duration: 1968-now

4. Location

Continent: Asia

Region: East Asia

Country: Cambodia

5. Actors: Khmer Rouge and Cambodia

II. Environment Aspects

6. Type of Environmental Problem: Deforestation

Top grade Cambodian timber is worth $ 80 per one cubic meter (35 cubic feet).(6) Thai official estimated the Khmer Rouge earned about $ 1 million per month from both the logs and gems.(7) The types of trees in Cambodia are pine, rosewood, and treak. Timber exports, estimated to be worth between $ 40 million and $50 million a year is Cambodia's biggest income earner.(8)

7. Type of Habitat: Tropical

The figures of a British agency, Global Witness, put forest cover at 10.4 million hectares, including 3.5 million hectares of national parks, out of the country's total area of about 18 million hectares. According to Global Witness, the figures are based on 1992-93 data and extensive deforestation has cut total cover to an estimated 30-35 percent of overall area.(10)

8. Act and Harm Sites: Cambodia and Cambodia

III. Conflict Aspects

9. Type of Conflict: Civil

10. Level of Conflict: High

11. Fatality Level of Dispute (military and civilian fatalities): 2 million

III. Environment and Conflict Overlap

12. Environment-Conflict Link and Dynamics: Direct

King Norodom Sihanouk issued a cry of alarm at the rate of rampant deforestation in the country and called on all foreign companies to plant three trees for every one felled. The weekly English newspaper, the Cambodia Times, reported as follows: In a letter to the press issued from his home here [Kemarin Palace in Phnom Penh], the King said the consequences of deforestation were "tragic and even fatal for Cambodia in the long term." "Since the 1980's until now some foreign countries and companies as well as illegal groups and individuals, have destroyed or are destroying Cambodia's forests, so vital for agriculture and the survival of the Cambodian people." he said. King Sihanouk said there had been a marked increase in deforestation this year [1995] and if this did not stop the country would become a desert in the 21st century with the Tonle Sap lake, according to the experts, becoming no more than vast mudflat.

Causal Diagram

13. Level of Strategic Interest: Substate

14. Outcome of Dispute: Victory

IV. Related Information and Sources

15. Related ICE Cases

  1. Peten in Guatemala War and Deforestation (Peten) Case
  2. Chiapas Civil War and Deforestation (Chiapas) Case
  3. Rwanda Civil War and Deforestation (Rwanda) Case

16. Relevant Websites and Literature

"Cambodia : Foreign minister'Neighbouring country' illegal
logging." BBC Monitoring Service, 14 Mar. 1994.

"Cambodia gets World Bank help to protect forests." Reuters
World Service, 19 Jan. 1996.

"Cambodian PM defends logging concession policy." Reuter World
Service, 30 Oct. 1995. "Cambodia's Sihanouk warns about logging." Reuters World
Service, 20 Feb. 1995.

"Crackdown ordered on border ban violators." Bangkok Post,
26 Jan. 1993.

"Deforestation bad for the environment, warns Environment
minister." The Cambodia Times, 24-30 Sep. 1995.

Dobbs, Leo. "FAO chief reviews tasks facing Cambodia." Reuter
News Service, 1 Sept. 1995. "Cambodia runs out of trees with logging concessions."
Reuters World Service, 1 Dec. 1995.

Dodd, Mark. "Cambodia's Sihanouk criticizes government." Reuters
World Service, 21 Feb. 1995. "Cambodia's wild west province braces for change."
Reuter News Service, 24 May. 1995.

Fawthrop, Tom. "Log exports banned to an ecological disaster."
Inter Press Service, 6 Oct. 1992.

"Khmer delegates in verbal battle at IMF meet." Bangkok Post
17 Oct. 1991.

"King Sihanouk alarmed at the rate of rampant deforestation."
The Cambodia Times, 29 Oct-4 Nov. 1995.

"Logs continue to be cut illegally in Cambodia." Bangkok
Post, 24 Aug. 1993.

MacSwan, Angus. "Cambodia to ban exports." The Reuter Library
Report, 23 Sept. 1992.

Murdoch, Lindsay. "Thailand admits to mad destruction of
rainforests." The Age (January 24, 1992).

"Nation facing potential natural disaster of widespread floods."
The Cambodia Times, 17-23 Sep. 1995.

"Over©logging threat to environment." The Cambodia times,
12-19 Nov. 1995.

"Paddy fields damaged, eight killed in severe flooding." The
Cambodia Times, 29 Oct-4 Nov. 1995.

"Peace process in danger of paralysis." UN Chronicle, 3
(March, 1993), 25-27.

"Rice for disaster victims." The Cambodia Times, 5-11 Nov.
1995.  Thailand bars UN flight from Cambodia." Reuter News Service,
1 Dec 1992.

"Thais face new logging blocks as UN ban ends." Reuter News
Service, 1 Apr. 1994.

Timber deal sealed." The Cambodia Times, 29 Oct-4 Nov. 1995.

"Two die as northwest area is hit by severe flooding." The
Cambodia Times, 22-28 Oct. 1995.

Wallengren, Maja. "Government scraps controversial timber deal."
Reuters World Service, 12 Aug. 1994. "Cambodia's Sihanouk calls for log export ban."
Reuter News Service, 18 Oct. 1994.

Wannabovorn, Sutin. "UN Cambodia chief sees log ban by December
31."  The Reuter Library Report, 27 Nov. 1992. "Thais vow protect trade from Cambodia sanctions." 
The Reuter Library Report, 2 Dec. 1992. "Logging profits fuel Cambodian fighting." Reuter
News Service, 7 Mar. 1994.

Whitaker, Raymond. Hopes of fil thy lucre fuel drive on Khmer
Rouge."  Reuter Textline, 8 Jul. 1994.  Referencesƒ

(1) "Two die as northwest area is hit by sever flooding," The
Cambodia Times, 22-28 Oct. 1995.

(2) "Paddy fields damaged, eight killed in severe flooding," The
Cambodia Times, 29 Oct-4 Nov. 1995.

(3)  Maja Wallengren, "Government Scraps Controversial Timber
Deal," Reuters World Service, 12 Aug. 1994.

(4) "Cambodia's Sihanouk Warns About Logging," Reuter News
Service, 20 Feb. 1995.

(5)  Leo Dobbs, "Cambodian Runs Out of Trees with Logging
Concessions," Reuters World Service, 1 Dec. 1995.

(6)  Sutin Wannabovorn, "Logging Profits Fuel Cambodian Fighting,"
Reuter News Service, 7 Mar. 1994.

(7)  Angus MacSwan, "Cambodian to Ban Log Exports," The Reuter
Library Report, 23 Sep. 1992.

(8)  Maja Wallengren, " Cambodia's Sihanouk Calls For Log Export Ban,"  Reuter News Service, 18 Oct. 1994.

(9) "King Sihanouk Alarmed at the Rate of Rampant Deforestation,"
The Cambodia Times, 29 Oct-4 Nov. 1995.

(10) The Global Witness report is based on filmed and eyewitness
accounts and on interviews with timber company and government
officials in Thailand and Cambodia since 13 November 1995, as well
as official government documents.  See "Cambodia Runs out of Trees
with Logging Concessions," Reuters World Service, 1 Dec.

November, 1997