Law to Protect Communal Forests Planned

More progress is being made on the subdecree for community forestry at a meeting being held this week between community representatives and NGOs.

The subdecree seeks to provide a lawful framework for local communities to manage and profit from the forests they depend on for their livelihood. This is the third such meeting between citizens and NGOs.

Representatives from 13 prov­inces where community forestry initiatives are planned attended. Hak Saran of the NGO Oxfam Great Britain said this is the second draft of the subdecree.

Among the concerns of the community representatives is whether the subdecree will allow communities to manage land that is currently concessioned to logging firms, and whether the subdecree will outline a practical mechanism for resolving local land disputes, according to Peter Swift of the NGO Southeast Asian Development Program.

Another point of contention is the procedural guidelines regarding what communities wish to do with their land, Swift said. The current draft includes a lengthy process for designating land for commercial logging, along with strict guidelines for the gathering of non-timber products, such as resin and rattan.

The consultation process was initiated by the Department of Forestry and Wildlife and is supported by the NGO Forum and Oxfam Great Britain. Also en­gaged in a consultation process is a task force comprised of representatives of four ministries and representatives of civil society.

Hak Saran expects a final draft of the subdecree to reach the Council of Ministers by late February or early March.

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