NGO: Data shows ‘wholesale sell-off’

March 31st, 2015 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia should urgently disclose all information about land ownership and rethink its “wholesale sell-off” of the country’s natural resources, a local rights group said yesterday.

The call to release information about Cambodia’s land sector, including a declaration of revenues, came as Licadho released an analysis of concessions showing that three-fifths of all of Cambodia’s arable land is under the control of mostly foreign-owned plantation firms.

The data, which exclude land allocated for mining exploration, shows that 2.14 million hectares have been leased to private firms since the government announced its forest “conversion” policy in the early 2000s and began to issue economic land concessions (ELCs). …

Daniel Pye and Pech Sotheary

NGO Global Witness hits back at ministry

February 12th, 2015 , The Phnom Penh Post

The government’s apparent unwillingness to take seriously evidence of continued large-scale illegal logging orchestrated by the Try Pheap Group is “disappointing”, Global Witness said yesterday.

A report released last week by the UK-based group titled The Cost of Luxury detailed evidence, collected during an eight-month covert investigation in Cambodia and Hong Kong, which suggested that tycoon Try Pheap sat at the helm of a multimillion-dollar timber smuggling network. …

Daniel Pye

Claims by Global Witness rejected

February 10th, 2015 , The Phnom Penh Post

Minister of Agriculture Ouk Rabun yesterday dismissed allegations of large-scale illegal timber smuggling by the Try Pheap Group published in a report by UK-based corruption monitor Global Witness last week.

Global Witness’s report, The Cost of Luxury, identified Pheap, a prominent tycoon and former adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, as the head of an elaborate timber smuggling network that illegally felled and collected trees before shipping them to China to fuel the demand for ornate hongmu furniture. …

Pech Sotheary

Farmers hope for rubber fix

October 22nd, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia’s small rubber farmers are hoping a commitment to stabilise prices among rubber producing countries will help curb sliding profits in the sector.

Industry representatives from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and other rubber producing countries met in Malaysia last week to discuss what can be done to stem the fall of rubber prices.

According to an October 15 report from Reuters, the rubber producing nations agreed to urge their members not to sell rubber below $1.50 a kilogram.​ …

Hor Kimsay and Daniel de Carteret

Cassava farmers plead for gov’t help

August 6th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Cassava farmers are calling on the government to standardise prices and help stabilise demand as the market for the root crop continues to prove risky for growers.

Cassava exports totalled 226,000 tonnes in the first six months of the year, down 21 per cent from a year ago, yet earnings for the cassava-export market rose 20 per cent in the same period, reaching $18 million. …

Chan Muyhong

Illegal fishing battle heats up

July 21st, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

When authorities in Kampong Chhnang province on Friday encountered and pursued the boat of alleged illegal fisherman Chieb Ou, they couldn’t have expected to find themselves being chased instead.

But that’s precisely what happened when, rather than surrendering, the 42-year-old suspect turned his boat towards the pursuing officers and attempted to ram their vessel, deputy provincial fisheries chief Seng Bun Chhern said.

The authorities were forced to flee to safety, eventually returning with 12 men in five boats to take Ou into custody for allegedly fishing with banned electric equipment. …

Sen David

Fine dining ups bird count

July 21st, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

Over the past six months, 19 “vulture restaurants” have led to a slight rise in the number of the birds spotted in Cambodia, according to a recent Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries report.

Contrary to the name’s sound, the vultures aren’t the dish being served but the diners being fed: Conservations lay out cow carcasses stripped of the hide and take cover nearby to document and photograph the birds. The 204 carnivores counted during feasts over the past six months is just slightly higher than the count estimated in last year’s annual report. …

Phak Seangly

Companies regrow ‘forests’

July 10th, 2014 , The Phnom Penh Post

More than 100,000 hectares of forest have been replanted across the country since 2008, according to a government report – but about 90 per cent of that amount can be chalked up to private plantations.

Produced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the report, obtained yesterday, claims that rather than forest cover decreasing – as monitoring groups and media outlets regularly report – it has increased, largely due to private companies’ industrial planting schemes.

Since 2008, 104,377 hectares were reforested, with a vast majority of about 93,000 hectares attributed to private companies planting trees such as acacia and palms, which spur “economic growth”, according to Thorn Saret, director of the administration department at the Agriculture Ministry. …

May Titthara

As fish stocks vanish, locals flout law to survive

July 9th, 2014 , The Cambodia Daily

Khan Thea, a subsistence fisherman who lives and works along this sprawling, 7,000-hectare lake fed by the Mekong River, was not having a good day on the water.

Struggling to net even a single fish, he finally resorted to a dangerous—and illegal—technique: fishing with electric current. …

Prime Minister Hun Sen abolished Cambodia’s system of commercial fishing lots in 2012, a major policy change intended to conserve fish stocks and give local subsistence fishermen a better shot at making a living.

But more than two years after the cancellation of the lots, which covered some 270,000 hectares of fish-rich areas, local villagers and fisheries experts say that little has improved for the fishermen who ply their nets here.

Meas Nee, former chairman of the Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), an NGO that advocates against illegal fishing, said the abolition of private lots was a necessary step, but the handover of the lots to community fisheries groups was not well planned. Now, there are even more illegal fishermen depleting fish stocks than there were before, according to Mr. Nee. …

Phorn Bopha and Alex Consiglio