Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cloudy future for logging concessions



Cloudy future for logging concessions

Cloudy future for logging concessions

In a policy reversal, representatives of the ADB's Sustainable Forest Management

Project (SFMP) are considering advising the government to cancel existing

contracts with logging concessionaires unable or unwilling to comply with

sustainable forestry practices.

However, the SFMP is being criticized by

the environmental watchdog Global Witness for perceived ambiguities in the new

policy.

The SFMP is tasked with the drafting of a forestry law, the

preparation of "community forest" guidelines, as well as a controversial forest

concession review which has been extended until the middle of March to include

inspections of concession areas inaccessible during initial inspections in late

1999.

The SFMP team leader, Orhan Baykal, said cancelling contracts was

an option despite the legal implications.

"We might find that in

instances of grave violation of law and practice we can suggest taking the risk

of being sued later and say to the government 'get rid of this concession,'" he

said.

However this decision has been greeted with lukewarm enthusiasm

from Global Witness, which since 1994 has monitored the illegal logging

activities of forest concessions and the environmental havoc they've wreaked on

the Kingdom.

In a report to be released today, Global Witness criticizes

the SFMP for raising the possibility of legal action on the one hand or

renegotiation of contracts on the other without stating a preference.

"In

essence, this passage simply illustrates that there are two options, but does

not suggest what the policy is regarding ... terminations," the GW report

says.

"Quotes by [SFMP personnel] in the media [imply] that

recommendations to cancel are unlikely and ... also [imply] that they are

favoring other alternatives, rather than cancellation."

In a Feb 24

interview with the Post, Baykal said the SFMP was constrained in what it could

recommend to the Government.

"Under current government agreements

regulating concessions, not a single clause can be used to take a

[concessionaire] to court," he said.

"[Global Witness] expects us to come

up with [recommendations to cancel concession contracts], but that's not up to

us ... this is not a criminal investigation."

Global Witness maintains

that nothing less than a cancellation of contracts of concessionaires with a

proven record of "forest crimes" will safeguard Cambodia's resources.

"By

recommending termination the ADB will give the [Cambodian government] the

rationale and the excuse to cancel certain concessions," the report

says.

"By failing to make such recommendations, the ADB will have

unwittingly contributed to the maintenance and indeed the preservation of

corrupt activities."

Global Witness also accuses the SFMP of overstating

the legal risks faced by the government in canceling concession

contracts.

"First, breaches of contract come under civil law, which

requires lower burdens of proof than criminal law. Secondly, GW's information

consists of film, photographs, documentation and the testimony of loggers,

officials and eyewitness statements, ... sufficient evidence to back

recommendations to terminate concessions," the report says.

However,

Baykal suggests that resolving the difficulties caused by "problem concessions"

is well on the way to being solved without legal action.

"Only three out

of 29 concessions are currently allowed to cut," Baykal noted.

In

addition, Baykal described the Department of Forestry and Wildlife's new

requirements that concessions complete both a 100% inventory of planned cutting

areas for 2000-2001 as well as pay all outstanding minimum government royalties

by March 1 in order to receive new cutting permits as instrumental in weeding

out "problem concessionaires."

"Some concessions will find out that

[sustainable forest management] is just not worth it and may sell their

concession to those better equipped," he said.

Not enough, according to

Global Witness, who insist that a definitive SFMP recommendation for the

cancellation of concession contracts is essential to motivate the government to

prevent further destruction of Cambodia's forests.

"To recommend

termination is an uncompromising decision ... [but] it is apparent to most

observers that the survival of Cambodia's forests depends in large part on

curtailing the activities of certain concessionaires."

MOST VIEWED

  • Municipal hall releases map detailing colour coded Covid risks by commune

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng released an official map detailing the red, yellow and dark yellow zones within the city under the new lockdown orders for Phnom Penh announced on April 26. The designation of red, dark yellow and yellow corresponds to areas with high,

  • Inter-provincial travel ban lifted; Phnom Penh and Takmao not exempted

    The government on April 25 decided to lift the inter-provincial travel ban and the closure of tourist attractions across the country, effectively immediately. The travel ban and closures of all resorts were imposed on April 6 and 17 respectively in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19,

  • Phnom Penh unveils rules for post-lockdown transition

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Administration issued a set of detailed guidelines for the seven days to May 12 after the capital emerges from lockdown at the onset of May 6. In the 14-page document signed by municipal governor Khuong Sreng released on the evening of May 5, the

  • Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown extended for another week

    The government late on April 26 announced an extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province for another seven days – or longer if residents do not comply with Covid-19 preventive measures and the community outbreak does not subside – until May 5. According

  • Gov't mulls extension of Phnom Penh, Takmao lockdown

    The Inter-ministerial National Commission for the Control and Enforcement of Lockdown held a video conference meeting on April 25 to review a draft document on the extension of lockdown in Phnom Penh and adjacent Kandal province’s Takmao town. The meeting was chaired by Minister of

  • Gov’t issues guidelines as lockdown nears end

    The government has issued a five-page set of instructions to be enforced when the three-week lockdown of Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province ends on May 6. According to an announcement signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 4, the instructions cover a