A REDD Programme representative yesterday said it would be concerning if recent claims of the military systematically clearing protected forest in Oddar Meanchey province covered under the scheme proved true – though a third-party company has dismissed the claims as outdated.

Florian Eisele, with the UN REDD Programme, yesterday said if the claims made by a UK-based environmental organisation, Fern, are correct, it would be “concerning”, but the UN program “does usually not work with individual projects nor are we in a position to comment on them”.

Conservation experts have said Oddar Meanchey’s carbon crediting scheme – Cambodia’s first REDD+ project – has been highly problematic since it first started in 2008 at a time when many settlers in the area were soldiers, making it difficult to protect the forest. The latest claims were made in a November 2017 report by Fern.

After the report was published, Virgin Atlantic, which used carbon credits from the project to offset its flights, asked Natural Capital Partners, the company facilitating the purchase of the credits, to investigate the claims.

However, Rebecca Fay, with Natural Capital Partners, said it had reported back to Virgin Atlantic regarding the Fern accusations.

“The fern report appears to be based on articles from 2014 and 2016 which they have taken from other publications,” she wrote in an email, declining to answer how Natural Capital Partners carried out its investigation, and how it concluded that those issues had been solved.