Hours after conferring an honorary Doctorate of Economics degree on timber tycoon Try Pheap – who the group Global Witness has accused of the “large-scale, industrial” logging of protected areas – Prime Minister Hun Sen called on people “from all walks of life” to help the government protect forests from illegal logging.
Hun Sen conferred the degree on behalf of the International Institute of Cambodia during a graduation ceremony. In a separate speech later in the day, he went on to tell a gathering of Agriculture Ministry officials that “illegal logging continues to happen”, that “authorities are not enough” and that communities and officials should see each other as partners against logging.
Seng Sokheng, the coordinator of the Prey Lang Community Network, yesterday said it was difficult for citizens to join with the government to stop logging because they have no power to arrest and routinely have to let loggers go.
“The government should make a law to give more power to the citizens,” he said. “Then we can join together.”
He added that by honouring Pheap, who has been accused of being behind a vast illegal logging network, the government was sending a bad message to the people.
In his speech to agriculture officials, Hun Sen also said he planned to request the Vietnamese premier’s assistance in stopping illegal timber exports to Vietnam, and had already asked that country’s police for help.
The statements seemed to contradict an April statement by military police spokesman Eng Hy, who said that joint forces had all but eradicated timber smuggling to Vietnam.