Charcoal exports banned

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Charcoal trucks are seen on the Cambodia-Thailand border. A strict ban on exports of charcoal to Thailand was imposed last week. Photo supplied

Charcoal traders have complained about the high cost of “service payments” required to export to Thailand via Banteay Meanchey province’s Boeung Trakuon border crossing, forcing some to stop operating. Meanwhile, Forestry Administration officials recently imposed a blanket ban on all charcoal exports.

A charcoal broker, who asked not to be named, said in the past he would pay Boeung Trakuon border officials 500,000 to 600,000 riel ($125 to $150) for a single trip with 18-20 tonnes of charcoal. After factoring in our capital and other expenses, he said, he is barely able to make a profit.

“I have decided to quit this business since it gains no profit at all,” he said.

Khut Sinuon, a charcoal broker from Thma Puok district, where the border crossing is located, told The Post she pays a lot of money to border officials, but last week authorities banned all charcoal exports to Thailand.

“It is all right for me. If the authorities ban charcoal exports, I can sell it locally. But other buyers face problems and some of them are angry because they have gathered and stored charcoal but are unable to pay the charcoal hauliers until exports [resume],” she said.

Boeung Trakuon border crossing chief Van Daran told The Post that charcoal is exported to Thailand via his checkpoint a few times per month, usually involving two or three flatbed trucks loaded with 10 to 20 bags of charcoal.

However, he confirmed that last week charcoal exports had been completely banned. Daran rejected claims that his officials receive service payments.

“I do not know about charcoal traders paying 500,000 to 600,000 riel per truck to my border crossing officials to export charcoal to Thailand. I believe my border crossing officials have not required any payments since it is illegal,” he said.

However, Sinuon said one of the people collecting the payments was a Military Police officer at Boeung Trakuon 888 security outpost named Chet Sorm.

On Tuesday, Sorm admitted he had received money in the past to enable traders to export charcoal to Thailand. He said he did not keep all the money, but shared it with some other border officials.

“It does not happen daily . . . only once or twice a month and it is only two or three trucks. Therefore, the money we receive only supports our livelihood while we are stationed there."

“At the moment, we have completely stopped [charcoal exports] because there is a strict order from our superiors,” he confirmed.

According to Sinuon, the charcoal exported to Thailand is not produced locally in Thma Puok district but hauled in from Oddar Meanchey province.

Hing Luy, 33, from Oddar Meanchey’s Banteay Ampil district, said she produces charcoal to support her family in order to supplement their income from farming, especially during the dry season when her 3ha cannot be cultivated due to a shortage of water.

“The charcoal we produce is distributed to Siem Reap, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey and some are exported to Thailand via the Boeung Trakuon and other border crossings,” she said.

She said her family manages to produce 1,000kg to 1,200kg of charcoal per month but only earns around 500,000 to 600,000 riel.

Chan Ponika, the deputy director-general of the Forestry Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said producing charcoal by taking timber from farms that rotate crops or from planted forests do not severely affect forestry resources.

However, he said, if charcoal producers log natural forest land, it seriously affects national resources and destroys wildlife habitats.

“Generally, our government does not encourage charcoal production for export abroad because it damages natural resources, forests and wildlife, including ecological systems and biodiversity,” he said.