The Ministry of Environment is on its way to finalising its highly ambitious environmental code, although budget discussions and the cost to implement the law are still to be decided, and many forest communities have not yet had a chance to weigh in on the changes.
A public workshop on Thursday was the last opportunity to receive comments from all those with an interest in the plan and its implementation, said Brian Rohan, a legal adviser at the Vishnu Law Group, which has assisted the ministry in revising several drafts of the environmental code since 2015.
Feedback received will be analysed and “incorporated as appropriate” into the final draft, which will be the 11th revision to the document. Officials hope to complete the final version by April 12, Rohan said. It will then go to the Environment Ministry, which will present it to the Council of Ministers.
But while there have been several consultation workshops and planning behind the development of the environmental code, no talks about potential budget allocation have taken place, Rohan said.
Asked about an estimated figure, he said: “I couldn’t even give you a guess.”
Khut Chandara, undersecretary at the Environment Ministry and head of the working group for the review and revision of the environmental code, said the drafting process had focused on the “new legal instrument” for the management of natural resources.
“Calculating those activities into money, I’m sorry, I don’t have time to calculate these things into money yet,” he said.
Chandara said the “drafting is not the end,” and that officials didn’t yet know when it would be finalise.
Him Yun, with the Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability, said there should be a “clear plan” for the code’s implementation that includes budget information, especially if it’s close to adoption.
Seng Sokheng, with the Community Peace Building Network, said there are still several concerns, and he would urge the government to allow for more planning and for more opportunities for feedback.
Most workshops have taken place at the national level, and less than 30 percent of Cambodia's forest communities have had a chance to provide input, he said.
“This law should not be adopted soon,” he said. “The government should not be in a hurry to adopt this environmental code.”