Cambodia Wood Exports and Deforestation
Cambodia Timber Export Ban (CAMWOOD Case)
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CASE NUMBER: 285
CASE MNEMONIC: CAMWOOD
CASE NAME: Cambodia Timber Export Ban
1. The Issue
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 the severe flood in 1988. This
moratorium brought about a dispute on the relation between trade,
environment, and politics in Cambodia.
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
This disastrous flooding resulted from long-continued
deforestation. Cambodia's forests have been devastated by the 20-
years of Cambodian conflict between four factions--Front Uni
National pour un Cambodge Ind pendent, 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 Thai-Cambodia border zone (see THAILOG case). Ostensibly, 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
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 was corrupt and began 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,
3. Related Cases
(1): Domain = ASIA
(2): Bio geography = TROPICAL RAINY FOREST [TROP]
(3): Environmental Problem = Deforestation [DEFOR]
4. Draft Author: Shugo Tanaka (May, 1996)
B. LEGAL Cluster
5. Discourse and Status: DISagree and COMPlete
At the first stage (SNC moratorium and UN resolution),
Cambodia log case is a disagreement between Thailand, Khmer Rouge,
the other three factions, and member nations of the UN except
Thailand. At the second stage (Royal Cambodia ban), this case is
a disagreement between Finance, Environment, and the Defense
ministries of Cambodia and Thailand.
6. Forum and Scope: CAMBODia and MULTIlateral
7. Decision Breadth: 183 (UN member nations)
8. Legal Standing: TREATY (UN Resolution # 792)
C. GEOGRAPHIC Filters
9. Geographic Locations
a. Geographic Domain : ASIA
b. Geographic Site : Eastern Asia [EASIA]
c. Geographic Impact : THAIland
10. Sub-National Factors: NO
11. Type of Habitat: TROPical
D. TRADE Filters
12. Type of Measure: Export ban [EXBAN]
13. Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: DIRect
14. Relation of Measure to Environmental Impact
a. Directly Related : YES WOOD
b. Indirectly : YES Oil and Gems
c. Not Related : NO
d. Process Related : YES DEFORestation
15. Trade Product Identification: WOOD
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.
16. Economic Data
Timber exports, estimated to be worth between $ 40 million and
$ 50 million a year is Cambodia's biggest income earner.(8)
17. Degree of Competitive Impact: HIGH
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  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.(9)
The King's statement doesn't bind those companies in terms of
the Cambodian law, but there is a high possibility that this call
will come true.
18. Industry Sector: WOOD
19. Exporter and Importer: CAMBodia and THAIland
E. ENVIRONMENT Clusters
20. Environmental Problem Type: DEFORestation
21. Species Information
Name of Species : Tropical Hardwoods
Type : Plant/Angiospermae/Dicots
IUCN Status : RARE
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 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)
22. Impact and Effect: HIGH and SCALE
23. Urgency and Lifetime: MEDium and 100s of years
24. Substitutes: CONSV
F. OTHER Factors
25. Culture: NO
26. Human Rights: YES
The Cambodian people have protested logging for human rights
reasons--losing the valuable forest resources with little or no
27. Trans-Border: NO
28. Relevant 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.
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. ügHopes of fil thy lucre fuel drive on Khmer
Rouge." Reuter Textline, 8 Jul. 1994.
(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.
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April 30, 1996