Illegal logging in Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia


Over decades, the Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary, located in Kratie province, Cambodia, has been an area of conflictive legal and illegal logging activities. The Wildlife Sanctuary has a strategic position for loggers and traders, as it is located on the border, allowing to easily trading legal and illegal timber and luxury forest products such as Rosewood to neighbouring Vietnam. It has also been the source of Resin producing trees – a central income source – and many other crucial forest products for neighbouring Khmer villagers, and for indigenous groups such as the Stieng, living within the Sanctuary.

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Basic Data
NameIllegal logging in Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary, Cambodia
SiteSnuol district
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Logging and non timber extraction
Specific Commoditiesrosewood
Biological resources
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThis conflict is comprised of various legal and illegal activities, ongoing over years with changing actors, rather than caused by a single project.

According to newspaper reports, illegal trade of luxury woods amounts to at least several hundred thousands dollars (5;10).

All these activities are centred within and around the Snuol Wildlife Sanctuary, covering an area 75,000ha. During the 1990s, this natural heritage, although protected under the 1993 Royal decree, was subject to a forest concession granted to Samling Corporation. In the early 2000s, the area was under a logging moratorium, which provoked heavy logging by illegal traders.

In the recent years, Economic Land Concessions (ELC) were granted, based on the 2005 subdecree on ELCs to various companies. The ELCs granted in this area between 2008-2012 were reported to amount to 126,000 ha. It is not clear whether these concessions overlap or not. Some of these companies (Binh Phouc Kratie Company Rubber 1 and 2 are believed to be subsidiary companies of the state-owned Vietnamese Rubber Group (VRG). The establishment of subsidiary companies is a well-known strategy to overcome the legal limit of 10,000 for ELCs (13).

The affected populations reported here (<35,000) refers to the affected population in Snuol district, according to an USAID report (12). It can be assumed to be much greater if accounting for other neighbouring districts.
Project Area (in hectares)126,000 (ELC area)
Level of Investment (in USD)N/A
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population>35,000
Start Date01/01/1996
Company Names or State EnterprisesSamling Group from Malaysia - Forestry, Oil palm cultivation, Propery development
Binh Phouc Kratie Rubber 1 Company from Cambodia - rubber, logging
Binh Phouc Kratie Rubber 2 Company from Cambodia - rubber, logging
Vietnam Rubber Group (VGR) from Vietnam - Rubber industry
Tay Nam K from Vietnam - rubber, forestry
Eastern Rubber (Cambodia) from Cambodia - rubber
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersCommunity Forest Network Cambodia

Women for a Peaceful Environment (Satrey Santepheap Daoembei Parethan (SSP)

Natural Resources and Wildlife Preservation Organisation

A series of other national and international NGOs frequently reported on the case, such as ADHOC, or LICADHO, or Global Wittness Cambodia.
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Property damage/arson
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseApplication of existing regulations
Project temporarily suspended
Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Land demarcation
Institutional changes
Development of AlternativesAs a response to heavy legal logging during the 1990s, the Royal Government of Cambodia, in 2002, introduced a nationwide moratorium on logging activities. This moratorium however could not stop illegal logging due to corruption and new traders.

The alternative proposed by the local Community Forest Network (a local EJO, part of a nationwide network) was to establish a formally recognized community forest, governed by the local population, within the Sanctuary. This alternative was finally formally established and recognized by the Ministry of Environment. Nevertheless, illegal logging continued and moreover also Economic Land Concessions (ELC) were granted covering the whole Sanctuary. This development is in direct conflict with the protected environment area and the community forest.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The legal and illegal logging continues, while the forest has largely disappeared and livelihoods have been largely destroyed.
Sources and Materials

Cambodian Foresty Laws and Regulations
[click to view]

2005 Cambodian Subdecree on Economic Land Concessions (ELC)
[click to view]

Cambodian Law on protected areas
[click to view]


(1) ARD 2004: Cambodia - An Assessment of Forest Conflict at the Community Level
[click to view]


(2) Phonm Penh Post article: Loggin mogul blasted
[click to view]

(3) Phnom Penh Post Article: Logging Samling Style
[click to view]

(5) Phnom Penh Post Article on illegal wood trade to Vietnam
[click to view]

(6) Cambodian Daily article on crackdowns on illegal logging
[click to view]

(8) Cambodian Daily Article on community activism against forest destruction
[click to view]

(10) Phnom Penh Post article on logging and ELCs in Snuol Sanctuary
[click to view]

(4) Cambodian Daily article: Government orders halt to logging concessions
[click to view]

(7) Phnom Penh Post Article: Timber Seized during bust
[click to view]

(9) Morning Star Article on the death of a journalist reporting on the case
[click to view]

Media Links

Video showing the deforestion in Snuol Wildlife Sacntuary, by the Phnom Penh Post
[click to view]

Other Documents

(12) ADHOC 2013 A turning point? Land, housing and natural resources in Cambodia in 2012 Report by the Human Rights NGO ADHOC
[click to view]

(13) Global Witness 2013: Rubber Barons Report by Global Witness on the involvement of Vietnamese rubber companies in land grabbing in Cambodia and Laos
[click to view]

(11) USAID 2006: Human Impact of forest conflict Report by USAID on forst conflicts
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorA. Scheidel. (ICTA - UAB) arnim.scheidel "at"
Last update11/02/2015