Press Release / Dec. 5, 2002

Cambodian community reps beaten by state thugs for peacefully requesting workshop on forestry management

This morning, community representatives were threatened and beaten by state security forces while waiting outside the offices of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DFW) to hear if the Department would organize a workshop on forestry management plans and environmental and social impact assessments . The community representatives were told to “Be careful, [as] something might happen to you and no one will be responsible for it". In the Cambodian context, this is a rather chilling warning, as occasionally people who have been threatened like this have been ‘disappeared’, never to be seen alive again.

At about 6:40 pm this evening, four trucks of armed military police, police and the elite force Flying Tigers arrived at the DFW offices. They shouted that anyone who did not run away immediately would be arrested and beat people with batons and electric cattle prods. The crowd dispersed. Approximately a dozen people were injured, including one person whose foot was broken. The same group of community representatives visited the Royal Palace two days ago and were given the red carpet treatment by the King.

Three million people, or approximately one-quarter of all Cambodians, live within 30 kilometres of a logging concession. The companies’ management plans and impact assessments will have a large impact on their lives.

“This is absolutely reprehensible behaviour. It confirms that the Department of Forestry and Wildlife have no interest the consultation process,” said Rosie Sharpe of Global Witness. The World Bank has linked a $15 million tranche of the Structural Adjustment Credit to this public consultation process. As a result of today’s brutality, the World Bank should block the loan and whoever ordered the violence should be fired.

Notes for editors:

Logging companies in Cambodia have been required to produce management plans and environmental and social impact assessments detailing how they plan to manage their forest and mitigate the impacts of their logging on people living in the forest. The original deadline for these documents was 30 September 2001, but was extended for one year after pressure from DFW. Public disclosure of these plans for community consultation is a legal requirement and has been linked by the World Bank to the release of a $15 million Structural Adjustment Credit.