The government is failing to protect Cambodia’s forests, activists, civil society groups and students said during yesterday’s World Environment Day celebration in Phnom Penh.
About 500 people from around the country gathered for most of the day to speak about environmental issues, taking the opportunity to criticise the government for letting powerful tycoons and officials destroy forests with impunity.
“The government anti-logging policies have been in place more than 10 years, but natural resource extraction is not transparent – it is only for the [powerful] individuals and their clan,” Goldman Environmental Prize-winning activist Ouch Leng said in a speech. “Government officials are inactive because huge numbers of them run the timber business.”
Leng cited a study by his NGO, the Cambodian Human Rights Task Force, that found Cambodia’s forest cover dipped below 20 per cent between 2014 and 2015.
Despite the government’s pledge to eliminate forestry crime, the country is full of shops that buy questionably legal timber to make into furniture, he said.
“Not only my kids, but also Samdech’s [Hun Sen’s] grandchildren will not be able to see rosewood in the forest,” said Leng.
He also criticised timber buyers in the EU and US for enabling the deforestation.
Forest activist Seng Sokheng said that only 20 per cent of Cambodians get any benefit from natural resource trade.