Thursday, 14 February 2008

Cambodia Calls for Regime Change at Global Witness

Thu., Feb. 14, 2008
Global Witness

Cambodian Hammer fails to crack nut - Cambodian Embassy in London calls for regime change at Global Witness

Following Global Witness’ recommendation that new World Bank President Robert Zoellick take advantage of his recent trip to Cambodia by calling for a credible investigation into evidence of an illegal logging network surrounding the Cambodian Prime Minister and other senior officials (exposed in Global Witness’ June 2007 report ‘Cambodia’s Family Trees’), the Cambodian government, increasingly desperate to defend their already tarnished public image, has issued a press release demanding a change in Global Witness’ leadership and a call to the organisation’s donors to cut funding.

The August 5 press release describes Global Witness’ request to Mr Zoellick as both “amusing and disturbing” and urges funders to “review the credibility and ill-intention of Global Witness Director,” adding “his discriminatory nature may be ill suited to lead Global Witness in the current situation and the future.”

“Cambodia’s Family Trees is based on several years of rigorous investigations into Cambodia’s forest sector and offers an in-depth exposé of illegal logging, kidnapping and attempted murder by relatives of the prime minister and other senior officials. I fail to see why calling for a credible investigation into these findings is either amusing or disturbing,” said Global Witness Director, Simon Taylor. “This latest announcement from the Cambodian Embassy is symptomatic of the government’s reluctance to deal with the facts presented in our report. Attempts to suppress our activities will not make these very real issues of governance and natural resource mismanagement disappear,” he said, adding “Either respond to our calls for an investigation to prove impunity in Cambodia does not exist, or stop complaining.”

“It’s also worth noting that the Cambodian government are happy to benefit from the freedom of the press here in the UK, whilst our report is banned in Cambodia and the prime minister’s brother is reported to have threatened Global Witness staff with violence,” said Taylor.

The press release highlighted economic growth over the past decade in Cambodia and improvements in the investment climate. Yet last month a World Bank survey of corruption in 207 countries ranked Cambodia in the bottom ten percent, as did the 2006 Transparency International "corruption perceptions index". The Cambodian government is still repaying millions of dollars siphoned off in a graft scandal that forced the Bank to temporarily suspend three key aid projects last year. Meanwhile, an estimated 35% of the Cambodian population continues to live in poverty.

“Quoting economic growth rates is meaningless if the vast proportion of state assets are under the control of an unaccountable elite,” said Taylor. “Changing the status quo will necessitate addressing the rampant corruption which allows a small group of individuals to profit from the exploitation of Cambodia’s natural resources at the expense of the country’s poor. There must be an effective judicial investigation into our report’s findings and the international donor community must insist that this happens.”

No comments: