HOR Nambora, Cambodia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, has backed down on an offer to publicly debate campaigners from London-based international watchdog Global Witness, accusing them of being mentally disturbed, media reports said.
On April 30, the Cambodian embassy in London issued a statement referring to Global Witness as a “loose cannon” after the organisation questioned a US$28 million payment made by French oil company Total to secure oil exploration rights in Cambodia.
“It’s time Global Witness was stopped in its tracks and forced to explain and justify its campaign of smear and hatred against the Cambodian Government,” Hor Nambora said in the statement. “The unsavoury tactics of this organisation need to be exposed for all to see.”
The statement also challenged Global Witness to a public debate “in London or elsewhere”, a challenge Global Witness accepted in a May 19 letter, suggesting that a debate be held on June 17.
But Voice of America radio reported that Hor Nambora has declined to take part in a debate on the grounds that Global Witness will only use the opportunity to attack the government.
The report cited a May 21 statement from Hor Nambora alleging the organisation has a “secret agenda” to harm Cambodia. The report also quoted the statement as saying that the Global Witness campaigners were “mentally ill”, and that it was not necessary for Cambodian officials to debate them.
In recent years, Hor Nambora has issued a string of statements accusing Western NGOs and media outlets of reporting inaccurately on Cambodia. Earlier this month, he questioned a new Global Witness report alleging that large-scale sand exports to Singapore were damaging Cambodia’s coastal environments, describing it as “a cheap and rubbish report”.