06/04/2007, 00.00
CAMBODIA
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Government bans report accusing PM Hun Sen of breaking the law

A report of the Global Witness accuses the prime minister and his family of illegally stripping the country’s forests. Reactions to the publication ban were quick. Chief government spokesman says organization aims to cause political animosity in the country.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Cambodia government yesterday banned a report by Global Witness, a London-based environmental watchdog group that accuses Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his family of illegally stripping the country’s forests. Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who is also the government’s chief spokesman, issued a statement vetoing the report’s release in the country.

Global Witness claims that legitimate land concessions are being used as a cover for criminal activity and accuses international donors of failing to act to stop the trade. The report focused on Cambodia’s Seng Keang Company, a powerful logging syndicate headed by Dy Chouch, Hun Sen’s first cousin. The reaction of the accused was swift. One of them, Forestry Administration Director Ty Sokhun described Global Witness as “insane, unprofessional people” with no knowledge of forestry. “The report centres its accusations on the government leader with an aim to provoke political animosity in the country” Khieu Kanharith said.

Titled Cambodia’s Family Trees, the Global Witness report was released on Friday. It came ahead of the June 19-20 meeting of international donors to discuss future aid to Cambodia.

Son Chhay, an opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker, said he doubted the attempts to ban the report would be effective, since it is available on the internet in Cambodian and English. He added that the government would be better off acting on the report’s recommendations to stop the plunder and investigate those involved in illegal logging.

Global Witness director Simon Taylor said that the “forests of Cambodia have been ransacked over the past decade by this mafia with little or no benefit flowing down to the ordinary people.”

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