NGOs Urge Government to Shut Down Yellow Vine Processing Plants

Environmental NGOs are calling on the government to shut down suspected yellow vine processing operations in Koh Kong province, citing serious risks to the environment and public health.

In a letter to Environment Minister Say Sam Al, the NGOs Wildlife Alliance and Conservation International said site visits earlier this month turned up yellow vine facilities that may cause “a huge negative impact to both ecosystem and public health.”

Yellow vine is an indigenous plant used in cosmetics and traditional medicine, and has been rumored to be used in the manufacture of ecstasy, although some experts have disputed the claim.

On November 1, a team of national and provincial environment officials and Wildlife Alliance representatives visited a site in Thma Baing district’s Russei Chrum commune, where a yellow vine factory was being built about 150 meters from the area’s main river, the letter says.

Two days later, other officials visited another suspected yellow vine operation in Koh Kong district’s Trapaing Roung commune.

“The factories will attract thousands of workers,” the NGOs’ November 4 letter says. “This will cause uncontrollable logging, wildlife poaching [and] land grabbing.”

The factories, which will also “poison waterways” and the water table with chemicals and sulfuric acid, violate Cambodian laws on protected areas and forests, it says.

Environment Ministry spokesman Sao Sopheap said on Wednesday that the ministry had not approved the factory and that it could be illegal.

“According to the technical team unit here, it is not in line with the Protected Area law,” Mr. Sopheap said. The law “does not allow for the processing of that yellow vine.”

However, deputy Thma Baing district governor Keo Nybora said the factory under construction in Russei Chrum was nothing to worry about.

“There are no companies that come to process yellow vine,” Mr. Nybora said, referring to an area that he said a Chinese company began clearing about a month ago. “They are just clearing the land to plant bananas or sugarcane.”

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