Japan and Norway have been accused of attempting to buy Cambodia's support for
lifting a ban on the hunting of the endangered minke whale in the run-up to a
crucial vote on the subject in Nairobi in April.
Chun Sareth, the
official Cambodian delegate to the Convention on the International Trafficking
of Endangered Species (CITES) has told the Post that representatives of the
Japanese government promised aid money in exchange for Cambodia's vote in favor
of lifting a ban on the hunting and trading of the minke whale during a meeting
of Asian CITES members in Phnom Penh from Feb 21 to 24.
Japan has been
severely criticized in international environmental circles in recent months for
pursuing a policy securing international CITES delegates support for pro-whaling
initiatives in exchange for an affirmative vote at the Nairobi
Sareth said that the Japanese CITES delegates had sought a
similar deal with Cambodia during the Phnom Penh meeting but added "they were
not clear about how much [aid money they would provide in
However, Sareth insisted that in spite of the Japanese offer,
Cambodia's decision on how it would vote on the minke whale issue in Nairobi
"would be based only on scientific evidence."
Horiuchi Toshihiko, First
Secretary of the Japanese Embassy in Phnom Penh flatly denied any allegations of
"vote buying" by Japanese officials, insisting that Sareth's statements were
based on a "misunderstanding."
"It's true that we have asked the
Cambodian government to support our proposal [regarding lifting a ban on whale
hunting]," Toshihiko told the Post March 1. "But it's not true that we have
asked for the support in exchange for aid."
Greenpeace has also accused
the Norwegian delegate to the Phnom Penh meeting of likewise seeking to buy
Cambodian support for a proposal to remove the minke whale from the endangered
Simon Reddy, Political Unit Advisor to Greenpeace
International in London, England told the Post on Feb 23 that Stein Owe,
Norway's delegate to the meeting, is well-known in environmental circles for
using Norwegian aid guarantees in exchange for support for the minke whale
"It's quite obvious why he's here ... he's made it clear since
the start of the meeting because he's only spoken on the whale issue," Reddy
said. "The fact is that [Owe] has visited 70 countries in the past three months,
basically to get support for resumption for the minke whale down-listing," Reddy
Reddy described Owe's presence as "suspicious" and indicative of an
attempt by Norway to influence as many CITES delegates as possible ahead of a
vote on the minke whale proposal in Nairobi in April.
"[Owe's] never been
to a CITES meeting before," Reddy explained. "The official delegate for Europe
is Italy, so arguably he needn't be here."
According to Reddy, Owe has
been provided with a $300,000 budget by the Norway whale lobby to visit
countries deemed "susceptible" to Norwegian requests for support of a delisting
of the minke whale from the endangered species list.
"Norway is targeting
poorer countries for support in lifting the [minke whale trade] ban," Reddy
explained. "Over the past months [Owe's] been to a lot of ex-USSR states [to
Norway's whaling fleet dominated the minke whale
hunting trade, selling the vast majority of its catch to Japan, before a CITES
listing of the cetacean in the early 1990s.
Recent admissions by the
Japanese government regarding the linkage of certain Japanese foreign aid
guarantees to support for Japan's initiative to renew the hunting and trading of
whale meat created an outcry in international environmental circles.
vote in favor of permitting a renewal in the hunting and trading of minke whale
meat stands to provide Norway with a financial payoff well worth Owe's efforts
on its behalf.
"Norway now has over 500 tonnes of whale blubber in
freezer storage," Reddy said. "Currently the going rate for whale meat in Japan
is $180 per kilogram."
The Phnom Penh meeting was described by Owe as "an
ideal situation" for Owe to meet with and solicit support from CITES delegates
from around the world.
"This CITES meeting saves him a lot of trouble,"
he said. "Everyone he needs to meet with is right here, in one
Sareth told the Post that Owe had not raised the question of
offering Norwegian aid for Cambodia's CITES vote in Nairobi