CAMBODIA'S first foray into controlling forestry concessions by law is under fire
even before it has been enacted.
The Sub-Decree on Forest Concession Planning, Management and Control Systems has
been forwarded to the Council of Ministers for approval.
But NGOs involved in the area are criticizing the proposed decree as hasty and inadequate.
Specifically, they point to the lack of provisions for independent monitoring, the
lack of provincial authorities having a say in what happens to forests in their areas,
no specific requirement for public consultation, no mention of traditional land users
and the lack of a review procedure before the reissuing of a concession.
A statement by the NGO Forum also suggests provisions to "ensure that the rights
of indigenous communities within their customary domain are respected through Joint
Forest Management, where indigenous people are equal in authority to Cambodian Government
authorities as managers of their lands".
There is also criticism that the role of the Ministry of Environment is too limited.
Because it is one step removed from direct financial and political gain in forestry
operations, the NGO Forum said that the Ministry should have a stronger role in monitoring,
community consultation and preparation of Environmental Impact Assessments and Social
The Forum was particularly concerned about section 6.5 of the sub-decree which it
says removes local people's control over their traditional livelihood, contravening
international conventions on human rights.
They say the section needs to be redrafted to ensure people's right of access to
the areas under concession for the purpose of activities such as gathering firewood
or non-timber products.
The Forum wants the section redrafted to read:
"People should have automatic access to forest products for traditional livelihood
activities consistent with sustainable land use and Community Forest Management Committee
rules and regulations.
"The Department of Forestry and Wildlife may grant concessions (as per this
sub-decree, including the need for EIA/SIA) for commercial, non-traditional collection
of wood for fuel or charcoal or other forest products other than timber on the forest
The Forum was also concerned about the lack of independent monitoring of concession
areas. It points to management plans already in existence in Cambodia "that
are being breached under Forestry Department supervision".
Finally, the Forum was concerned to see clarification of what constituted illegal
It said that if a concessionaire logs an area outside that for which it has been
granted a concession then it can simply blame it on illegal loggers. The forum wants
responsibility for illegal logging in concession areas clarified.
The Forum would like to see that concessionaires "be only allowed to process
timber from their legal concession".
"We regard these changes as essential inclusions to the sub-decree."
The NGO Forum said they had received a letter from the Department of Forestry and
Wildlife agreeing to adjust the sub-decree, where possible, to take into account