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US sanctions aim to topple Cambodian timber magnate

Office of Foreign Assets Control adds Try Pheap and 11 of his companies to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has imposed trade sanctions on Cambodian timber magnate Try Pheap for his role in illegally harvesting and exporting timber.

The agency said Pheap uses corrupt practices, which involve Cambodian government and military officials, to operate a multimillion-dollar illegal logging operation. Through his companies, he sells the timber to buyers in Vietnam, China, Europe and Russia.

“The support of these [government] officials makes it difficult for local authorities to take lawful action against Pheap, as in one example, Cambodian National Park officials were paid by Pheap to keep his operations secret from the international community,” OFAC said in a Dec. 9 statement.

Also sanctioned by OFAC are 11 Cambodian-registered entities that Pheap owns or controls. They include Try Pheap Group Co. Ltd.; M.D.S. Import Export Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Dry Port Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Engineering & Construction Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Grand Royal Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Import Export Co. Ltd.; Papa Petroleum Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Property Co. Ltd.; Try Pheap Travel & Tours Co. Ltd.; M D S Thmorda S E Z Co. Ltd.; and Try Pheap Oyadav S E Z Co. Ltd.

Placement on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List will prohibit U.S. persons and entities from conducting business with Pheap or his companies.

The 2017 Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act allows OFAC to impose sanctions on foreign persons and entities that commit human rights violations and engage in other corrupt practices.

OFAC works with the Department of Homeland Security’s Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center to identify perpetrators of human rights abuses and corruption.

Global Watch, a human rights and environmental group that praised the imposition of U.S. sanctions against Pheap, said its extensive investigations have found that Cambodia’s military and customs enable the timber magnate to flourish unimpeded.

“Try Pheap’s company was even granted exclusive rights to buy any illegal timber seized by authorities to sell on at a profit,” Global Watch said.

The organization called on other countries to impose similar sanctions against Pheap.

Chris Gillis

Located in the Washington, D.C. area, Chris Gillis primarily reports on regulatory and legislative topics that impact cross-border trade. He joined American Shipper in 1994, shortly after graduating from Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Md., with a degree in international business and economics.