A leading campaigner against the use of pesticides in developing countries said he
had been assured by government officials that Cambodia was drawing up regulations
to control their sale, import and use.
Dr. Koa Tasaka, a representative from the Pesticide Action Network-Japan Committee,
met with senior government officials during a 14-day trip to Cambodia in July.
The doctor said he had also been told by the Japanese mission in Phnom Penh that
it would urge the government not to release a controversial shipment of Japanese-manufactured
pesticides donated to Cambodian farmers.
Dr. Tasaka's visit follows a symposium organized in Tokyo earlier this year by the
Japan International Volunteer Center (JVC), Japan Consumer Association and Japan
Tropical Forest Action Network to discuss the controversy over the Second Kennedy
Round aid or Japanese 2KR aid-a donation of 30 tons of insecticide to Cambodia.
The forum, which was attended by the chief of the Grant Assistance Department of
Japan's Foreign Ministry, laid down some recommendations on the issue, including
an appeal to the Japanese and Cambodian governments to freeze 2KR agricultural materials
currently stored in a warehouse in Phnom Penh. Cambodian-based NGOs have made similar
requests to the Japanese embassy.
Dr. Tasaka said that as a result of the public outcry and concern over the pesticide
shipment, the Japanese government has now recognized the dangers of the donation.
He said Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Yukio Imagawa had told him that he would
send a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, asking them not to distribute or use
the pesticides until the Japanese government sends agricultural experts to Phnom
Penh to conduct training here in the very near future.
JVC has listed the pesticide problem as one which needs urgent attention, said Hiroshi
Taniyama, a JVC representative.
With regard to the Japanese package, Taniyama acknowledged that it appeared the Japanese
government had halted the pesticide shipments to Cambodia pending the establishment
of a proper control system.
"They have to do the survey first and they said they did, but the documents
are not open to the public; nobody knows," he said.
Dr. Tasaka, who is a professor of chemistry from the International Christian University
in Tokyo, said he had witnessed on field visits to Bati and Phnom Penh districts
in Kandal province, farmers improperly using FOLIDOL, a type of canned agricultural
chemical, for their water melon farming.
Noting that no instructions in Khmer were printed on these pesticide containers,
the professor expressed great concern over the danger Cambodian farmers were being
"It's extremely poisonous, but farmers seem to have no knowledge about this
danger," he said, adding that he had also found FOLIDOL on sale at Chbar Ampow
market and that he believed this deleterious chemical is also available at other
markets in the country.
He said that because the farmers did not realize the danger, they threw away the
cans after using them, and children were picking them up and playing with them. If
children drank this chemical it would cause serious medical problems unless they
were referred to hospital immediately for appropriate treatment, he said.
The farmers who Dr. Tasaka met in the two districts he visited were not wearing masks
or any protection while spraying the pesticide. He said they risked damage to their
eyesight and nervous system if they continued to use the chemicals for a long time
in such an hazardous way.
Dr. Tasaka called on the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health to
train doctors to check the levels of poison in the bloodstreams of farmers.
Another worry is the drinking water in rural areas, especially where pesticides are
heavily used. Some farmers drink water in the ponds or ditches adjacent to the paddies,
or, sometimes, even the paddy water itself.
When the pesticide enters the water system, it can kill fish and other aquatic animals
and it is very harmful if children bring them home to be used as food, he said,
JVC is planning to invite an expert on alternative agricultural methods to Cambodia.
"The best way to prevent poisoning is not to use pesticides, and promote alternative
methods that do not need pesticide," said the doctor. "There are such methods".
He said the Japanese expert will be talking through seminars to Cambodian agricultural
officials, extension workers and NGOs.