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British green group to monitor forests
PHNOM PENH December 3, 1999- A British environmental group that for years has campaigned against illegal logging in Cambodia has been appointed an independent monitor of the country's forestry sector, a group representative said yesterday.
"We've been a thorn in the side of the government for years so it's extraordinary they're taking this step," Patrick Alley, of the group Global Witness, told a news conference.
"This is a great day for us. This role gives us a direct formal feed into the enforcement process and full access to timber related government and concession records. This means there's a chance illegal loggers might actually be arrested."
Global Witness has been highlighting mismanagement and corruption in the Cambodian foresty sector since the early 1990s. The group has exposed numerous cases of illegal felling and illicit timber exports.
Global Witness will now report directly to the cabinet of Prime Minister Hun Sen as well as to Cambodia's aid donors.
The World Bank, in a report last year, said illegal felling was being carried out at three to eight times sustainable levels and at that rate, Cambodia's forests would be commercially logged out within a few years.
Early this year the government began a fresh crackdown on illegal logging, much of which is done by rogue army units.
The crackdown has halted much felling, but environmental groups say the real test is coming now with the new dry season, when log cutting and transporting traditionally picks up.
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