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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - WWF wants to talk dolphins

WWF wants to talk dolphins

THE conservation group WWF has agreed to meet with the Council of Ministers to discuss a controversial report on the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin population that a government official said earlier this week could lead to charges of publishing false information.

The June 18 report claimed that the Mekong's Irrawaddy dolphin population had been decimated by environmental contaminants. It said 88 dolphins had died since 2003 and that pollution in the river had pushed the dolphins "to the brink of extinction".

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia's Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, criticised the report on Monday, saying his office should have been consulted before it was published.

He added that WWF could be charged with publishing false information if it did not revise the report.

Tep Asnarith, senior media and communications officer for WWF, said Thursday that the conservation group had sent a letter to Touch Seang Tana on Monday requesting an opportunity to meet with the Council of Ministers on Tuesday to explain the report's findings as well as researchers' methods.

"We are OK to have a meeting," Tep Asnarith said Thursday.

"WWF is very happy to show the results of the report and answer all questions."

He said WWF was awaiting a reply from Touch Seang Tana.

Touch Seang Tana said Thursday that he had not yet received the letter, but he said officials will not be able to meet Tuesday because they will be
busy celebrating the one-year anniversary of Preah Vihear temple's listing as a World Heritage site.

He said WWF's suggestion that the meeting take place that day was indicative of its reluctance to meet with officials.

"They [the WWF] know ... that high-ranking officials will be very busy on that day, but they still chose that day," he said.

"This shows that they do not intend to answer for their report. We do not have time to listen to their lies."

He said he would send a letter to WWF Country Director Teak Seng on Friday in which he would ask for a written explanation of the report.

Upon receiving the explanation, he said, officials will decide whether it is satisfactory. If not, he said, WWF will face disinformation charges.

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