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01 Sep 2005 13:12
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Thursday that millions of Cambodians cooking with charcoal were to blame for using the bulk of the country’s wood and was a far greater factor in the nation’s massive deforestation problem than illegal logging.
Speaking at a tree-planting ceremony in the southwestern province of Svay Rieng, Hun Sen told delegates he wanted people who criticised his government for not doing enough to stop deforestation to provide fossil fuels.
“Over the past few years we have planted 30-million trees, but the tree loss is much greater than this,” Hun Sen said.
“Ninety percent of Cambodians use charcoal to cook with. Only the 10% in the cities have electricity or gas.
This 90% is the source of deforestation.
“Many criticise the Cambodian government over deforestation.
He said the international environmental group Global Witness continued to be critical, which made him even more sure the decision to ban the group’s leaders from Cambodia was correct.
“Everything you [Global Witness] said was political, so we decided to kick you out ... Global Witness not only criticised Cambodia, it criticises foreigners which pay money through donors such as World Bank,” he said.
Global Witness was first sacked as Cambodia’s independent forestry monitor and then banned from receiving visas after it was repeatedly critical of the government, publishing a report that linked the very highest ranking government officials with illegal logging on a grand scale.
Environmentalists have said that continued illegal logging on the scale it has been carried out in Cambodia since the end of the civil war in the last decade will seriously damage the country, leading to erosion, droughts, flooding and the loss of habitat for many already endangered animals.
Donors have tried to pressure Cambodia’s government to address the problems, and have warned that aid may be cut if they are not satisfied with the progress. - Sapa-DPA
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