The prime minister has called on government ministries to pursue closer cooperation with NGOs and community activists in the fight against illegal logging, a call met with scepticism by some in the forest protection community yesterday.
Speaking at an event in Kampong Speu on Friday to mark National Fish Day, Hun Sen said it was time for all parties to put aside their differences, starting with the ministries of environment, agriculture and mines and energy. “It is an error that we have to change that begins in government,” he said.
The premier made special mention of the Prey Lang Forest Protection Community, which has long been at odds with the Forestry Administration.
But Prey Lang activist Hoeun Sopheap was not convinced.
“We do not want to cooperate, because some government officials are corrupt. They have outposts to guard Prey Lang forest, but when people haul timber out, they take $10 or $30 [bribes],” Sopheap said.
Chea Hean, director of the Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation, noted that when his staff has reported forestry crimes, neither the Environment Ministry nor the Forestry Administration officials have acted.
But Seng Bunra, country director of Conservation International, offered a more optimistic assessment, saying that recently appointed Environment Minister Say Samal – whose ministry assumed control of Cambodia’s protected forests in March – has already begun reaching out to community activists.