On June 12 the Japanese and Cambodian governments signed an agreement outlining a
new Japanese aid program worth US$59 million. The agreement came days after Cambodia
became one of the newest members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), just
ahead of its annual round of voting.
At the IWC meeting on June 18, Cambodia voted in favor of the St Kitts and Nevis
Declaration supporting a return to commercial whaling. The declaration states that
"whales consume huge quantities of fish stock, making the issue a matter of
food security for coastal nations."
The declaration was narrowly passed, with 33 member countries voting in favor, 32
against, and one abstention. This majority was not significant enough to overturn
the current global ban on commercial whaling: that would require a 75 percent majority.
However, it signals a power shift within the IWC.
Animal rights groups have drawn attention to generous Japanese aid packages to small
countries with no history of whaling, such as the Marshall Islands, Guatemala and
Cambodia. All three recently joined the IWC, along with land-locked and aid-dependent
Mali and Mongolia.
"The fact that such a large sum of money was recently given to Cambodia, that
Cambodia recently became a member of the IWC, and that Cambodia voted in favor of
the Japanese for every vote taken at this year's IWC meeting, cannot be considered
mere coincidence," said a spokesperson for the US-based Animal Welfare Institute,
Japanese Embassy spokesperson Junichi Hoshikura told the Post that the funding will
go towards infrastructure projects in Mondulkiri and Kampong Cham, improvements to
National Route 1 to Bavet, and scholarships providing for Cambodians to study human
resource development in Japan.
The new Cambodian Whaling Commissioner, Nao Thouk, who attended the IWC meeting,
could not be reached for comment.