Minister of Justice Koeut Rith has set up a working group to review and advise on the penalty provisions of the draft laws on fisheries, forestry and protected natural areas before submitting them to the Council of Ministers for approval.

The working group, established pursuant to the minister’s August 17 decision, will be co-chaired by Chiv Songhak and Keng Somarith, both secretaries of state at the ministry, along with three vice-chairmen and 14 other members from the ministry.

“The working group is tasked with researching and adding provisions to the drafts. They will review and advise on consistency and legal compliance between the relevant laws,” the decision read.

Ministry secretary of state and spokesman Chin Malin said the group was preparing the drafts for the next step.

“After receiving the amendment drafts, they will review and make comments on the relevant sections of the penalty provisions. It is still too soon to say when they will be submitted to the Council of Ministers for [approval],” he said.

Pen Bonnar, a senior official at rights group ADHOC, said the revision of the laws will clearly define the obligations of citizens, police officers and public officials in their duty to protect and conserve natural resources.

“We think that these three laws – if implemented effectively by judicial police officers everywhere and by the prosecutors’ offices in all provinces – will be excellent resources to reduce forest crimes,” he said.

Back on August 8, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng confirmed at an inter-ministerial meeting that the preparation of the three drafts was in accordance with the recommendations of Prime Minister Hun Sen.