Press Release / March 15, 2004

Phnom Penh Governor shooting incident: time to end the forest sector’s culture of impunity

Immediate release: 15th March 2004


Phnom Penh Governor shooting incident: time to end the forest sector’s culture of impunity

The attempts by bodyguards of Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema to shoot their way through a Forest Administration checkpoint in Skun, Kompong Cham province on 11th March, constitute a serious breach of the 2002 Forestry Law. Global Witness1 calls for a criminal investigation of the incident and prosecution of those responsible. Article 100 of the Forestry Law states that:

Any activities carried out by the officials of local authorities, police officers, royal armed forces or other authorities that directly or indirectly allow forest exploitation or other activities contrary to the provisions of the law, or to threaten a Forestry Administration officer or to obstruct the performance of duties and operations of a Forestry Administration officer, shall be subject to one to five years in prison and fines of 10 million to 100 million riel.

“Since its introduction in July 2002, enforcement of the Forestry Law has been largely confined to small scale forest crimes involving poor villagers. In the meantime, well-connected timber businesses and relatives of powerful officials have continued illegal logging with impunity,” said Mike Davis of Global Witness. “It is very encouraging to see the Forest Administration tackling what appears to be an extremely serious breach by a high ranking official. We look forward to seeing the FA addressing other cases involving senior officials in the same assertive manner.”

In the week prior to the arrival in Preah Vihear of the Governor’s party on 10th March, timber traders in Phnom Penh contacted local officials in Sa’em commune, Chom Khsan district, Preah Vihear province, to request that they supply them with a quantity of luxury timber. On 11th March, the day that the Governor’s party returned to Phnom Penh, his convoy included trucks carrying between 25 and 50 cubic metres of wood from Sa’em. Luxury grade species are protected by law and it is a near certainty that this timber was harvested illegally.

Notes to editors:

1. Global Witness is a London based non-governmental organisation that focuses on the role that natural resources play in funding conflict and facilitating corruption. It alerted the world to the issue of conflict diamonds in 1998 and has since campaigned for controls to counter the problem. Its other campaigns have included exposing the Khmer Rouge’s multi million dollar illegal trade in Cambodian timber; working to increase fiscal transparency in the oil trade due its negative impact on regional development and campaigning for targeted timber sanctions against the Liberian logging industry for funding regional conflict and instability.