Embassy Calls for Global Witness ‘Guidelines’

Donors supporting the environmental group Global Witness should establish a “regulatory framework” to rein in the organization’s supposed anti-government activism, Cambodia’s embassy to the United Kingdom announced Monday.

In its statement, the Cambodian embassy said it was responding to a Jan 22 Global Witness news release announcing that the US Congress had endorsed calls for US visa bans on government officials the group accused of environmental crimes.

The statement, received Wed­nesday, declared the embas­sy’s “disappointment” with the Glo­bal Witness director Simon Taylor, whom it accused of deliberately in­tending to “discredit and plot against” the government.

“This can probably [be] ex­plain­ed in the same way dogs are happier to lick bones found in the domestic waste. We find it hard to believe that the ‘UNEDUCATED’ still exist in such number and continue to lead Global Witness,” according to the statement, titled “New Policy and Leadership.”

In boldfaced block characters, the statement also called on charities, development organizations and the governments of Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK “to establish an international regulatory framework for revised guidelines of Global Witness.”

Swedish and British representatives said Wednesday they were consulting with their respective foreign ministries over the statement. Representatives for Cana­da, Ireland and the Nether­lands did not re­spond to requests for comment.

Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kan­harith said the statement differed from the government’s position on Global Witness.

“The Cambodian government had nothing against the noble goal of Global Witness in general. That’s why we didn’t issue any statement against it,” he wrote in an e-mail.

“I think what the Cambodian Em­bassy in London had in mind is to blow a whistle to remind the donors to monitor the activities of some local operators, as the ones in Cam­bodia, hijacking the GW ideal [to] subvert it to serve their own political agenda,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Ministry Under­secretary of State Oum Somanine, director of the Europe department, referred questions to Secretary of State Ouch Borith, who said he had not yet seen the statement.

Global Witness did not respond to requests for comment.

The US in December enacted a law calling for visa bans for all foreign government officials suspected of natural resource corruption that affects US interests. The law also adopted language endorsing bans for Cam­bodian officials identified in a June report by Global Witness.

“The State Department is currently reviewing all relevant information,” US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle wrote in an e-mail Wednes­day, adding that to date no Cambo­dian officials had been denied a visa due to the new law. (Additional reporting by Yun Samean)

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