A senior World Bank official has sent a strongly worded statement to Cambodian Minister of Cabinet Sok An regarding the beating of a Global Witness logging monitor, saying the attack should be viewed as an extension of larger problems within the Cambodian logging industry.
“We understand that neither the motivation nor the source of this recent incident has yet been determined. However, the attack appears to have been designed to threaten and intimidate and to discourage continuation of this important work,” read the May 8 letter from Ian Porter, the World Bank’s Thailand country director.
Senior Global Witness official Eva Galabru was knocked to the ground and beaten April 30 near her office. She was not robbed, but on the following day she received an e-mail message that said only, “Quit.”
The attack has been widely characterized as an attempt to intimidate Global Witness the week after staff members of the independent logging watchdog discovered evidence of illegal logging in Kompong Thom province.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who so far has not spoken publicly about the attack, issued a moratorium on logging in Cambodia that began in January. Global Witness monitors traveled to Kompong Thom after an aerial survey indicated trees had recently been cut in a concession run by the Malaysian company Grand Atlantic Timber International.
“I urge government to consider this incident an extension of the underlying problem of illegal logging and forest crime in Cambodia and see it as adding urgency to the need to accelerate the forest policy reform process,” the World Bank letter continued.
The attack follows nearly a year of tenuous relations between Global Witness and the government, including a threat last year from Hun Sen to expel the London-based watchdog for distributing a critical report to the media before notifying the government.
At the government’s second annual conference on the logging earlier this year, government staff complained that the monitor often speaks critically of the logging industry.
Porter, in his letter, urged the government to talk to Global Witness officials about the attack and the larger problem of illegal logging.
“I am confident that your excellency and the royal government of Cambodia will not tolerate such incidents and will vigorously pursue this case and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he wrote.