Unregistered NGOs warned of legal action

Protected area in Phnom Kravanh. Pic wildlife alliance

The Environment Ministry has warned it will take legal action against NGO workers who conduct illegal activities in protected areas as they are not registered with the Interior Ministry.

The Ministry issued a statement on Friday saying it has recently found some NGOs and associations, who are not registered, working anarchically in the ministry’s protected areas.

It said NGOs or associations working illegally in the protected areas should cease their activities.

“For NGOs or associations who continue to illegally act against the laws on the protected areas, the Environment Ministry has no choice but to implement legal action, especially the Law on Protected Areas, to prevent and stop such activities,” it said, noting relevant authorities should help monitor any NGOs who violated the laws.

The ministry said it welcomed legitimate NGOs to participate in the protection and conservation of natural resources to promote livelihoods of local communities in and near the protected areas.

Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said yesterday some NGOs are illegally working in the protected areas without the ministry’s approval.

“Some NGOs, associations and a handful of individuals committed illegal activities, such as posing as environment ministry officials or using the names of park rangers to extort money from villagers,” Mr Pheaktra said.

Sar Mory, researcher and advocacy programme chief of the Cambodian Youth Network, an NGO involved in environment protection, said most of the NGOs working on the environment were registered with the Interior Ministry.

He said NGOs, associations, and environmental activists did their work in accordance with the Constitution, Forestry Law and the Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Management, which guaranteed the rights of citizens to participate in the protection of forest and natural resources.

“TheEnvironment Ministry should enforce the law to clamp down on forestry and natural resource crimes in which forestland is encroached upon rather than using them to threaten NGOs, associations, environmental activists and communities who have participated in protecting natural resources,” Mr Mory said.

“I think only cooperation from all stakeholders can protect the remaining forest and natural resources in the country.”

The Interior Ministry last week suspended the activities of the Cambodia Wildlife Forest Fisheries Protection and Conservation NGO for 90 days, saying it violated its conditions.

TheMinistry of Environ- ment also said in a report that it currently manages 60 protected areas and biodiversity conservation areas covering more than 7.2 million hectares, or an equivalent to about 41 percent of the country’s total land area.

It said 1,260 rangers have patrolled protected areas with good cooperation and participation of local authorities, NGOs, associations and local communities.

Source: The Phnom Penh Post