Global Witness Says Government Statement ‘Fails To Crack Nut’

Forestry watchdog Global Wit­ness Friday dismissed a call by the government for the removal of the group’s director, saying the call for NGO “regime change” failed to address matters of alleged government corruption and environmental plunder.

In the Aug 5 press statement, the Cambodian Embassy in London called on Global Witness backers—a host of development agencies and charities—“to review the credibility and ill-intention of Global Witness Director [Simon Taylor as] his discriminatory nature may be ill-suited to lead Global Witness.”

The statement marked the latest episode in a battle that began June 1 when Global Witness published a report accusing a “kleptocratic elite” of officials and their kin of criminality and environmental plunder—accusations those named in the report categorically denied.

The London embassy called in June for the group’s donors to cut its funding. Global Witness then called for World Bank President Robert Zoellick to press, during his first visit to Cambodia earlier this month, for an investigation based on the June report, entitled “Cam­bo­dia’s Family Trees.” The embassy in London called the request to Zoellick “amusing and disturbing.”

On Friday, Taylor said the government was missing the point. “At­tempts to suppress our activities will not make these very real issues of governance and natural resource management disappear,” Taylor said in a statement titled “Cambodian Hammer Fails To Crack Nut.”

“Either respond to our calls for an investigation to prove impunity in Cambodia does not exist, or stop complaining,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary of State Long Visalo hung up when contacted by a reporter. Government spokes­man Khieu Kanharith said he was unaware of the call for Tay­lor’s removal. “The government no longer cares about the report,” he said. “Diplomats have understood that the report is of a political nature and against the gov­ern­ment.”

A British Embassy spokes­man said Sunday that his embassy would not comment on calls for it to act against Global Witness.

(Addi­tion­al reporting by Pin Sisovann)

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