Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Authors of report on dolphins will not face charges, official says

Authors of report on dolphins will not face charges, official says

Authors of report on dolphins will not face charges, official says

Chief of Cambodia's Commision to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins had earlier said group could be charged for report that was 'all lies'.

A GOVERNMENT official said Wednesday he had decided to forgive the conservation group WWF for publishing what he has described as a false report on the Mekong River Irrawaddy dolphin population, backing off earlier threats to pursue false-information charges but adding that future reports would require advanced discussion before publication.

Touch Seang Tana, chairman of Cambodia's Commission to Conserve Mekong River Dolphins and Develop Eco-Tourism, said Wednesday that he reached his decision after consulting with Nao Thouk, director of the Fisheries Administration at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The report, released last month, said that environmental contaminants in the Mekong River had contributed to the deaths of 88 Irrawaddy dolphins since 2003, some 60 percent of which had been calves under two weeks old that succumbed to a bacterial disease.

Touch Seang Tana immediately lashed out at the report, calling it "all lies" and suggesting that WWF was reluctant to discuss its findings with officials.

He said Wednesday that documents sent last week to his office by WWF did not sufficiently explain the findings in the report, which he said his office had "rejected".

Nevertheless, he said he would not go forward with false-information charges, nor would he make any attempt to prevent WWF from continuing its work in Cambodia.

"I will make an effort to coordinate to have WWF to continue working in Cambodia," he said. "But in the future we will not allow them to publicise reports without prior discussion with us."

WWF voices relief
WWF Country Director Teak Seng said Wednesday that the government's decision was a good one, adding that it could ultimately help efforts to conserve the dolphins.

"This is a positive response," he said. "It is a good sign in working together to conserve dolphins."

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