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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 11:12 GMT
Cambodia ditches logging watchdog
Shipments of timber
Logging rules are often violated in Cambodia
The Cambodian Government has fired an independent forestry watchdog, accusing it of unfair bias in its reports of illegal logging.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said the British-based monitor Global Witness would not have its contract renewed when its current term ended in three months time.

The donors... do not have the intention to force the government which is their blood relative to marry a partner that she does not love

Prime Minister Hun Sen
After that, the group will no longer be allowed to work with the forestry department, Hun Sen said.

There are even reports it may be asked to leave the country altogether.

The Cambodian director of Global Witness, Eva Galabru, told BBC News Online she was unaware of any particular accusations levelled against the group.

But she said "the nature of the job itself is an irritant" to the Cambodian Government.

"The forestry reform process is slow, and our understanding of our mandate is to inform people of what is happening," she said.

'Repeated mistakes'

Hun Sen told a conference of international donors on Tuesday that he would like to find "a new and more capable forestry monitor".

Cambodian tree burning
The potential profits from illegal logging are huge
He accused Global Witness of having a "hostile, untruthful, unjust and destructive attitude", damaging the government with its "repeated mistakes".

But he said Cambodia was committed to forestry reform, and appealed to the donors - who fund more than 60% of the government's annual expenses - for help in finding a replacement.

"The donors are like the relatives and closest friends of the Cambodian Government, and they do not have the intention to force the government which is their blood relative to marry a partner that she does not love," Hun Sen said.

Unwelcome findings

Global Witness began working in Cambodia in 1995, acting as an independent monitor to oversee the activities of the government offices cataloguing forest crimes.

The group's remit was to develop the government's capacity to detect and crack down on illegal logging.

But it has long been at odds with the Cambodian authorities, especially since it released documents accusing government officials of being involved in illegal logging.

The group also accused the police force of using excessive force to break up a protest by forest-dependent communities in December.

The government has denied the charges.

Ms Galabru said the organisation had yet to decide its next move, but any action should not be made in anger or haste.

"Our objective is to preserve the forests," she said.

See also:

28 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
30 Jan 01 | Asia-Pacific
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