"Maybe [Global Witness] thought that ... I will have to step down as Prime Minister during the first three months of 2001," PM Hun Sen.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen has blasted the environmental monitors Global Witness (GW),
threatening to expel the organization from Cambodia.
Hun Sen's threats came in the wake of a GW report presented to the Government and
donors at the January 29 Consultative Group meeting in Phnom Penh.
The report said illegal logging, on a massive scale, has resumed in Cambodia and
the Government is losing much-needed revenue.
At a January 31 speech at the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen questioned GW's agenda
"I feel that the [GW criticisms] are a politically motivated defamation of the
honor of local authorities and the competence of the Government," said the Prime
"Maybe [Global Witness] thought that because of my promise [to stop illegal
logging] in front of the United Nations, if it is shown that I am not able to curb
illegal logging then I will have to step down as Prime Minister during the first
three months of 2001."
A spokesperson for GW, Jon Buckrell, told the Post the organization does not have
a political agenda and acknowledges the Prime Minister's support in reforming Cambodia's
"In the press release issued prior to the post-CG meeting Global Witness said
'Under Hun Sen's leadership the possibility of forestry reform has become a reality.
The RGC's commitment to preservation of the central Cardamoms, and to the concept
of forestry reform has been amazing over the past year.' Clearly Global Witness'
sole motivation is the preservation of Cambodia's forests, not to get involved in
politics," said Buckrell.
Hun Sen also attacked the veracity of GW's forest crime investigations and complained
that GW gave information about their investigations to the media before informing
"We will accept information about illegal logging from every source, and we
will take action, but the information we receive from Global Witness is always wrong,"
said the Prime Minister.
Buckrell refutes this assertion. "Over the past year Global Witness has provided
the government, not the press, with 22 factually accurate crime reports. We consistently
demonstrated a desire to work closely with the government and stand by the accuracy
of these reports."
Hun Sen said the Cambodian Government is being unfairly scrutinized. "Though
we welcome people who come to help us, we oppose those who intend to destroy us.
"This organization has no legal right to work in Cambodia , and also no visa
to enter Cambodia. This is [GW's] mistake and they must apologize to me - or does
[GW] want me to kick [them] out? This is Cambodia, it is not your country,"
The Prime Minister urged the audience of police officials to show some initiative
in the effort to stop forest crimes.
"We don't need to wait for reports from Global Witness, why don't we just investigate
illegal logging activity ourselves? We have to crack down on illegal logging everywhere,
including in forest concessions given by the Government," said Hun Sen.
Buckrell said canceling Global Witness' contract would only benefit illegal loggers.
"The Government and Global Witness should unite efforts to tackle rogue concessionaires
rather than end cooperation."