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Bkk Post-Firms given approval to im

Subject: Bkk Post-Firms given approval to import logs

Bangkok Post May 26, 1999.
Firms given approval to import logs
Movement subject to strict controls

Uamdao Noikorn

The Forestry Department is prepared to grant four Thai companies permission
to import 120,000 cubic metres of logs from Burma through Mae Hong Son.

Forestry chief Plodprasop Suraswadi said he has set tough conditions for the
four companies-Thai Korean Veterans' Welfare, B&F Goodrich, SA
Pharmaceuticals and Phol Phana, and that they have accepted the terms.

Under the agreement, the department and all other concerned agencies are
entitled to inspect the companies' operation sites, possibly including their
log yards in Burma, and their logs at any time. This was in addition to a
major inspection jointly conducted by all concerned agencies.

Mr Plodprasop's readiness to grant the companies hauling permits follows
Chart Thai Party leader and former prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa's
surprise inspection trip to Salween national park in mid-March, after which
he expressed his opposition to the companies' request.

The former prime minister is not a member of the cabinet although
Agriculture Minister Pongpol Adireksarn is his party's secretary-general. Mr
Banharn's inspection trip generated much speculation about his motives.

Mr Plodprasop said he has also proposed a bar-code system to identify the
origin of the logs to ensure they did not come from Thai forests. "I guess I
have to issue the permit since they've agreed to play by my rules," he said,
admitting his criteria had been intended to keep loggers at bay and he had
not expected any one to take up the offer.

The companies claimed the logs were left over from previous shipments which
were halted when the Salween log scandal broke out in February last year.

The scandal involved Thai logs from the national park and wildlife sanctuary
which were claimed as imports. So far only officials from the Forestry
Department have been punished, including the recent expulsion of six
officers found guilty of issuing fake receipts and border passes.

No one from other agencies, including the military, the National Security
Council, the police and the customs department, has been reprimanded or

The four companies had attempted to obtain permission to move their logs
more than a year ago through six border passes in Khun Yuam and Muang
district of Mae Hong Son.

They claimed to have suffered losses in billions of baht as the result of
the border closure.