Hun Sen's 22nd October speech assumption of a 'sense of responsibility' for anarchic logging over the past four years is welcomed, but must be backed up with real action.
"It is essential that Hun Sen puts his political will behind forest policy reform" said Patrick Alley of Global Witness. "We have been calling on him to do this for the past two years but this is the first sign that he might actually do something, and we welcome it".
Global Witness remains sceptical that effective reform will actually come out of this statement. The RGC has, since 1996, made numerous statements and enacted extensive legislation regarding forestry reform, but during the same period the RGC's leadership has undermined their own legislation.
"Hun Sen is right to feel a 'sense of responsibility' says Global Witness' Simon Taylor. We have so many documents bearing his signature, together with those of Ranariddh, Ung Huot and many others, that the leadership cannot avoid responsibility for the rampant destruction of Cambodia's most valuable natural resource for the gain of the political, military and business elite".
The RGC has traditionally pledged to carry out forestry and other reforms in the lead up to meetings of the Consultative Group, when large amounts of foreign aid are up for grabs. "What gives us some cause for optimism is that the World Bank funded forestry reform project is ready to role, and that both Hun Sen's and Tao Seng Huor's recent declarations regarding reform have not coincided with a major donor meeting", said Taylor.
However, Global Witness note that of the tens of thousands of cubic metres of logs which can easily be seen on the Mekong and the roads to Vietnam, only 1500m3 have been seized by the RGC. "We need to see large scale seizures and the prosecution of leading perpetrators, such as Uy Sarin of Military Region 2 (MR2), Generals Noun Phea and Seuy Keo of MR1, Chung Sopheap of Pheapimex and Teng Bunma, amongst many many others", said Alley.
Global Witness did note that the ADB has just provided US$976,000 to the Ministry of Agriculture for technical assistance to the forest sector, which could be a factor in the recent declarations. "Let's hope our cynicism will be misplaced this time", said Alley.
Press Release / Oct. 30, 1998