Hun Sen Blasts Group Over Logging Allegations

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday lashed out at an unnamed group that appeared to be environmental watchdog Global Witness while speaking at the inauguration of a Kompong Thom province rubber processing facility.

The new facility is located in Tomring commune, an area that received close attention in a June 2007 Global Witness report as a center of illegal logging. The government banned the report, which accused a “kleptocratic elite” of environmental plunder.

“We guard against criticism from unethical groups,” Hun Sen said.

“They say Tomring has no rubber trees…. The discussion today will send the message that Tomring is not as has been alleged. Today I insult you. You are stupider than animals,” Hun Sen said.

The premier went on to advise foreign governments to not believe the report or otherwise risk allowing themselves to “lose dignity.”

Global Witness Director Simon Taylor said by e-mail Wednesday the report never claimed what Hun Sen was promulgating in his speech.

“Our report, ‘Cambodia’s Family Trees,’ never claimed that Tomring has no rubber trees; hearing of the prime minister’s comments, one has to wonder if he has bothered to read it,” Taylor wrote.

“Instead [the report] shows how the last rubber plantation in Tomring was used as a pretext for massive illegal logging in the surrounding Prey Long forest. The findings were based on several years of rigorous on-site research,” he wrote.

If the prime minister is concerned about natural resource management in Cambodia, he should order a “credible, independent investigation into illegal logging,” Taylor said.

Since the inspection and certification company Societe Generale de Surveillance ended its two-year contract in 2005, the country has had no independent forestry monitor.

Forestry Administration Spokes­man Thun Sarath said Thursday that the government would soon be submitting a forestry report to conservation NGOs for review.

   (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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