PM Defends Forest Loss, Orders Arrest Over False Covid Post

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Prime Minister Hun Sen releases fish at a Banteay Meanchey reservoir July 1, 2022. (Hun Sen’s Facebook page)
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Prime Minister Hun Sen railed against critics in a speech Friday morning, saying anyone complaining about forest loss should relinquish their land to the state to replant trees, and ordering authorities to continue arresting anyone posting “fake news” about Covid-19.

Speaking at a ceremony to release the fish into a Banteay Meanchey reservoir, Hun Sen fired back at critics of deforestation. Population growth and agricultural development were causing the loss of forest cover, with the land turned into farms and plantations, he said, suggesting that agricultural land use had roughly doubled over recent decades.

He suggested that anyone criticizing him should give up their own land for replanting.

“Please, all of those who criticize me, hand over the land back to me,” Hun Sen said. “You have to hand the land back to me and I will use it to grow trees. Do you dare to do that?”

Over the years, researchers have alleged that the country’s extensive forest loss was partly due to large-scale timber trafficking by well-connected tycoons with the aid of the military.

On Friday morning, Hun Sen also set his sights on critics posting false information about Covid-19.

Police arrested a Tbong Khmum man last night on his orders for claiming on TikTok that there had been a new Covid-19 death, Hun Sen said. The man’s social media post was fear-mongering and not appropriate expression, he said.

“Post one, arrest one. Post two, arrest two. [We] will not let it be. Because this is not a joke,” Hun Sen said.

“If you want to be at peace, don’t exaggerate the news. No one will harm you. There are 17 million people and no one does anything [against them] unless you say something wrong,” he said.

Candlelight Party from Tbong Khmum posted on their Facebook page on July 1 that the man was linked to the party.

National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun declined to comment on the Tbong Khmum arrest, saying authorities needed time to work on the case.

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