A Global Witness report that implicates relatives of Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior government officials in illegal logging has provoked fury among the government and been banned from circulation.
The London-based environmental watchdog is a poorly operated unit and their report, released on Friday, was motivated by anger at being thrown out of the country in 2005, said Ty Sokun, director-general of the Forestry Administration and an adviser to Hun Sen, reported Cambodian newspaper the Sralanh Khmer on Monday.
Government Spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said in a statement on Sunday that his ministry and Deputy Prime Minster Sar Kheng would cooperate to find and remove all copies of "Cambodia's Family Trees' Illegal logging" and the stripping of public assets by the elite, reported French language newspaper the Cambodge Soir.
The group's personal attack on Hun Sen is designed to heighten political tension in the country, the statement added.
The report's content is politically motivated and therefore unacceptable, said the statement, which stresses the report's removal is not an infringement of civil rights.
"The government welcomes freedom of the press ... the government is (usually) happy to work with any non-government organization," concluded the statement.
The more than 100-page document claims that Cambodia's forests are being systematically ransacked of their natural resources by highly organized upper-level officials, with Brigade 70, the reserve force for Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, being responsible for the traffic and transport of the valuable timber.
The report alleges that Dy Chouch, the prime minister's first cousin, runs the strongest arm of the illegal logging operation fronted by a rubber plantation program with an economic land concession.
Working with his former wife Seng Keang and her brother Seng Kok Keang, the syndicate front is currently extracting timber resources from Prey Long forest in Kompong Thom province, according to the report.
Global Witness has operated in Cambodia for more than a decade as an independent logging watchdog, even holding a work contract with the government until 2003, when it began reporting the trade had close links to the government.
Since mid-2005 all the organization's representatives have been banned from entering the country.