The Department of Fisheries (DoF) completed its long-awaited draft fisheries
law this week, raising hopes that problems within the fisheries sector will soon
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outdated 1987 Fisheries Law.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the existing law was created in 1987, it is out of date," he said.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."
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.