Cambodian PM Vows to Shoot Loggers From Helicopters, Again
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen promised on Sunday that he would fix his country’s problems with rampant deforestation by shooting those who illegally chop down timber from helicopters.
“It’s correct that we are losing our forests, many are being replaced by rubber plantations,” he said, speaking to members of the Cambodian diaspora in New York.
“I acknowledge that thieves have illegally cut down timber and I am ordering them to be shot from helicopters in the sky.”
Hun Sen made a similar promise two and a half years earlier, when he announced that General Sao Sokha, newly appointed as head of a task force to stop illegal logging and timber smuggling, was authorized to fire rockets at loggers from helicopters.
That order came a year after a Global Witness report showed that Hun Sen’s own personal advisor, Try Pheap, headed an illegal logging network that saw millions of dollars of rosewood smuggled to China each year.
Not a shot has been fired from helicopters since that order and the task force did not succeed in halting the flow of luxury timber across Cambodia’s borders to Vietnam.
Hun Sen’s relatives have also long been linked with the country’s illegal timber business.
With hectares of forest falling to loggers and economic land concessions dished out by Cambodia’s ruling party, the country has one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation.
Global Witness meanwhile estimates that evictions that have resulted from logging and the government giving land to agribusinesses have displaced 830,000 people, forcing some into squatting in state forests, or cutting down timber themselves.
Speaking Sunday, however, Hun Sen emphasized that it was the country’s now-defunct opposition--whose leader is in exile and whose deputy leader is just out of prison--that should be blamed for illegal logging.
“In many cases [the thieves] went to cut down millions of hectares to cultivate farmlands, including groups [affiliated] with the former opposition,” he said.