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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Completion of draft fisheries law raises hopes

Completion of draft fisheries law raises hopes


The Department of Fisheries (DoF) completed its long-awaited draft fisheries

law this week, raising hopes that problems within the fisheries sector will soon

be resolved.

What the debate comes down to ó fish comprise two-thirds of protein intake.

Long Korn, legal task force leader at DoF, said the draft

was handed to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries' (MAFF) legal

committee for review on January 14.

The 125-article law will replace the

outdated 1987 Fisheries Law. It includes a chapter on community fisheries,

reiterating much of what is proposed in the Royal decree on community


This has been a gray area since Prime Minister Hun Sen in 2000

allocated 56 percent of privately-run fishing lots for use as communal fishing

areas without setting the procedure in law.

Long Korn said the new draft

was based on a number of models, including local forestry and land laws, the

Thai fisheries law and, for marine areas, the UN Law of the Sea.


the existing law was created in 1987, it is out of date," he said. "We needed to

reform the sector and identify its law so everyone understands the issues. I am

confident that [this draft] will be a success."

Oxfam-GB's program

representative, Mike Bird, said he was pleased the draft was one step closer to

becoming law. He felt the law would solve many problems associated with

fisheries, provided an education program was also set up.

"Part of it has

been waiting for an actual legal framework," he said, "[but] even once that is

in place, there still needs to be wide dissemination of


Oxfam-GB has assisted DoF with the draft since 2001,

organizing workshops around the country allowing locals to pass comment on the

draft, and passing on those recommendations.

Bird said there were some

concerns with aspects of the draft, such as the provision that gives to

fisheries officers alone the power to deal with offenders.

"That has to

be watched closely - whenever you give sole responsibility for law enforcement,

checks and balances are very important," Bird said. "Also, there is the issue of

education [about the law]. These training needs have been identified quite

clearly [in our recommendations]."

Mak Sithirith, coordinator of the

Fisheries Action Coalition Team (FACT), a local NGO, said the consultation

process for the draft law was a step in the right direction for managing


"[However], we don't know to what extent people's comments

have been taken into consideration," he said. "If the law does not reflect the

needs of local people, they will not use it. If the law does not include public

participation, [officials] will be able to use the law against the people."

A coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Hong

Hy, welcomed the progress, but was skeptical the new law would immediately solve

the troubles in Koh Kong.

The coastal waters around Sre Ambel, where AFSC

runs a project, have for years been the scene of violent encounters between

local fishermen and illegal trawlers.

"If the new law replaces the old

law, it may be better for the people," he said. "The law may be clear, but in

practical terms [it will be] very difficult to apply."

The draft law is

expected to remain with MAFF for three months, before being passed to the

Council of Ministers. Long Korn said it was unlikely that it would be signed

into law before July's general election.




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