Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM blames Cambodia’s logging problem on opposition

PM blames Cambodia’s logging problem on opposition

Logs are smuggled into Vietnam via a clandestine crossing in O’Tabok, in the Virachey National Park, in February 2017. EUA
Logs are smuggled into Vietnam via a clandestine crossing in O’Tabok, in the Virachey National Park, in February 2017. EUA

PM blames Cambodia’s logging problem on opposition

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday blamed Cambodia’s rampant deforestation on local villagers who he claimed had been “incited” by the opposition to clear the forestland, though conservationists were quick to point out that those behind illegal logging are actually often powerful tycoons connected to the ruling party or even officials themselves.

The premier’s comments came while speaking to some 14,000 factory workers from 14 factories in Preah Sihanouk.

He said the country’s population has increased since 1979, and during the ensuing years of civil war, the government allocated money for families to obtain land, but after the war, people started to “clear and take the land by themselves”.

“Just in Kampong Som [Preah Sihanouk province], Kbal Chhay, most [of the land] has been damaged,” he said. “Kbal Chhay, who logged it? Sometimes the opposition party pushed the people to log, and they logged for what? Some people logged to cultivate on the land.”

He also claimed that some people had received land under social land concessions, only to then sell it and claim to be landless.

“They are from the same group – the opposition,” he claimed. “For the businesspeople who are rich, they don’t complain [about being landless].”

Seng Sokheng, with the Community Peace Building Network, said the issue of deforestation doesn’t involve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was frequently critical of the government’s reluctance to confront illegal logging until it was forcibly dissolved at the government’s behest last year.

“I think that the people behind deforestation are from the CPP [Cambodian People’s Party],” he said, adding that it’s usually tycoons or companies with “close relationships to the prime minister’s family” or some are ruling party members themselves or military or police officers.

Last May, the Environmental Investigating Agency revealed that Cambodian officials in Ratanakkiri, including the provincial Governor Thong Savon, received bribes from traders in Vietnam to open up logging areas and routes in Cambodia. A police investigation into similar allegations in Mondulkiri implicated a number of officials, though none were prosecuted.

Also last May, National Police intercepted a truck belonging to Ang & Associates Lawyer Co Ltd – a subsidiary of the Royal Group chaired by powerful tycoon Kith Meng, once an adviser to Hun Sen – headed toward Vietnam allegedly transporting illegal timber. Since 2013, there have been repeated accusations involving the same company of carrying out illegal logging by clearing outside its permitted area in the reservoir of the controversial Lower Sesan II Dam.

The tycoon Try Pheap, who has perhaps faced more accusations of illegal logging than anyone else, was also once an adviser to Hun Sen. There have also been numerous allegations of deforestation by the military, especially in protected areas.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said Hun Sen’s assertion was so outlandish that he initially thought the premier was making a joke. “I think that the government has failed to protect the forest and is making others the scapegoat,” he said.

Ou Chanrath, a former opposition lawmaker, rejected the allegation that the opposition had encouraged people to clear the forest. “The powerful traders are involved in deforestation . . . Cambodians currently don’t dare touch it.”

Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol

  • Ministry to 'seek justice' for officials indicted in US for 'monkey smuggling'

    The Cambodian government and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said they will make the “utmost effort” to seek justice for a Cambodian official arrested in John F Kennedy International Airport in New York for allegedly conspiring to smuggle crab-eating macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis)

  • Takeo hand-woven silk items provide local high-quality alternative to imports

    After graduating from university and beginning her career as a civil servant at the the Ministry of Economy and Finance, Khieu Sina found time to establish a business that aligns with her true passion – quality hand-woven Khmer goods. Her product line, known as Banteay Srei,