Hun Sen Warns Eco-Court Could Curb Tourism

Government ministers should be cautious before offering support for a proposed international tribunal for ecological crimes, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday evening.

Cambodia should not allow new environmental restrictions to curb the increasing number of planes that deliver increasing volumes of tourists to Cambodia, the premier said at the close of a two-day tourism sector conference at Phnom Penh’s Chaktomuk Conference Hall.

It was unclear which proposed international body the premier was referring to, however the Inter Press Service news agency reported in September that UN diplomats had expressed re­newed interest in creating such a tribunal, a longstanding proposal.

“Be careful. Be careful about this. I am just giving you advice not to support a court for environmental crimes,” said Hun Sen, adding that Cambodia alone was not responsible for climate change. “We are too small. The big [countries] should support that court first.”

Climate change is a new, complex issue that required further study before Cambodia could take any actions, he added.

Hun Sen said Cambodia expected to receive 2.3 million tourists this year, a 15 percent increase over 2007 levels.

The prime minister also said he had asked Public Works Minister Sun Chanthol to help select a location for a new international border crossing at Poipet to serve cross-border cargo shipments.

SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Thursday that Cambodia should in fact offer its support to such a court.

“Global warming is of course a global issue but Cambodia should have a part in protecting the environment,” he said. “This court could help protect against cutting any more forest.”

“Singapore is a small island but Singapore has great environmental protection,” he said.

World Wildlife Fund Program Manager Bas van Helvoort said Thursday that Cambodia was not among the world’s largest polluters, but it likely would not suffer from the creation of such a court.

“I would say that the ecological footprint of Cambodia cannot be large,” he said. “I would think that by supporting any court you would only have justice to gain.”

  (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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