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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM Hun Sen threatens to give Global Witness the boot

PM Hun Sen threatens to give Global Witness the boot

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"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

in Cambodia.

"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

Minister.

"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

forestry sector.

"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

the Government.

"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,"

he said.

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."

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