Logging tycoon Try Pheap’s rapidly expanding land empire, criticised by rights groups for displacing families and encroaching on protected forest areas, has grown to almost 70,000 hectares in size and is helping to facilitate a cross-border illegal logging operation, a report released today alleges.
The Cambodian Human Rights Task Force (CHRTF), a local NGO, claims in the report that through as many as 15 companies operating under his name or that of his wife, Mao Mom, Pheap is in possession of almost seven times the amount of economic land concessions (ELCs) allowed by law – an allegation a representative of the tycoon denied yesterday.
“The reason to focus only on Try Pheap’s companies,” the report states, “is to urge the government to take action and show the truth behind why our forests are disappearing.”
The report – one of a number this year focusing on Pheap’s activities – also alleges that as well as being concessionaire to vast areas of land, Pheap also has exclusive rights to collect and buy luxury timber, mainly rosewood, from all government-granted land concessions in 15 provinces.
Areas mentioned include Ream National Park in Preah Sihanouk province, Preah Vihear province’s Boeung Pe Wildlife Sanctuary and Virachey National Park in northeastern Cambodia.
Mining concessions are also listed as having been granted in Stung Treng province.
CHRTF’s report adds that Pheap’s companies – which include his MDS Import Export firm – also clear timber from concession areas in Cambodia’s other nine provinces.
According to the report, at least 1,445 families have been evicted from their homes during Pheap’s acquisition of about 68,088 hectares since 2010. …
Included in the 52-page report are photos of company vehicles transporting rosewood, and piles of timber stationed at company offices and Pheap’s home in Kandal province. …CHRTF says it has documents from the environment and commerce ministries that detail the concessions. The report claims Pheap is closely connected with officials from the ministries of interior and agriculture, the military, forestry officials and other concessionaires, such as Choeung Sopheap, who owns the Pheapimex company. …