Global Witness welcomes an announcement by the Cambodian government that it will turn vast swathes of the country’s imperilled forests into a no-go zone for industry and commercial loggers. This is a critical first-step in combatting rampant deforestation, but will require proper resourcing of Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment, as well as close cooperation between the government and the country’s forest populations, says the campaigns organisation.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has declared that almost 1 million hectares of forested land across Cambodia will be designated as protected zones – an area roughly the size of Lebanon or Jamaica. This includes Prey Lang, one of Southeast Asia’s largest evergreen forests and a biodiversity hotspot that provides a home and livelihood for almost 200,000 Indigenous People.
“Cambodia’s forests have been disappearing faster than almost any country on earth, liquidated for timber, crops and minerals that have made a small elite very rich,” said Global Witness campaigner Josie Cohen. “If enacted, this move to halt forest destruction could represent Cambodia’s most significant forest reform for a decade. But it will require concerted efforts by the government to overturn the corruption and illegality that has long plagued Cambodia’s forest sector, and made all previous attempts to salvage its forests unsuccessful.”
Global Witness is calling on the government to:
- Ensure that the Ministry of Environment has the political backing to take on the powerful economic interests that control the illegal logging sector.
- Provide the Ministry of Environment with the financial resources required to fund sufficient protection activities in the newly designated protected areas.
- Ensure that the process to protect additional forestland is conducted transparently, with opportunities for civil society oversight, in order to reduce the risk of it being undermined by corruption.
- Protect and collaborate closely with forest-dependent communities, many of whom have suffered threats and harassment by forest authorities for their attempts to expose illegal logging and quell the flow of illegal timber out of the forests.
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