The April 6 firing of the government’s top forestry official by Prime Minister Hun Sen was not enough to ensure the safety of Cambodia’s remaining timber, the resources watchdog Global Witness says.
In a statement following the public sacking of Ty Sokhun, the director of the Ministry of Agriculture’s forestry department, Global Witness said broader measures are needed to protect what is left of the nation’s forests.
“The idea that Ty Sokhun has been removed from his post because of a failure to crack down on illegal logging is laughable,” Global Witness Director Simon Taylor said in an April 7 statement. “His status as protector of Cambodia’s forest was already stretched beyond credibility. If this move was really about that, then he should have gone years ago.”
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that Cambodia lost 29 percent of its primary forest cover between 2000 and 2005. Ty Sokhun was made director of the forestry administration in 1998 and held the post for 12 years.
UK-based Global Witness was once a forestry consultant to the government, but it was fired in 2003 and kicked out of the country in 2005 after publishing sensitive information on the timber trade.
The international award-winning group issued a report in 2007 claiming the country is run by a “kleptocratic elite” and that its “most powerful logging syndicate” was led by relatives of the premier. The Cambodian government banned the report, “Cambodia’s Family Trees.”
Global Witness said in its statement that Ty Sokhun and Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun “sold off 500 or more jobs in the Forest Administration.” Both officials have denied such reports.
Global Witness also said last week Ty Sokhun’s father-in-law is a “key member of Cambodia’s biggest illegal logging syndicate.”
Ty Sokhun and his replacement, Chheng Kim Sum, both declined to comment on the statement.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said officials will ignore the statement, which he called an attack on the Cambodian government.
Ty Sokhun was fired last week as part of an ongoing government crackdown on logging, but environmental groups say more needs to be done.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said Ty Sokhun’s firing was a new step in the timber crackdown, but he said the government needs to undertake more, similar actions.