Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers Tuesday called for the removal of all forest concessionaires who engage in illegal logging as debate continued on a draft forestry law.
A cluster of 20 lawmakers also demanded unsuccessfully that the draft law be amended to limit logging agreements between the government and timber companies to something less than the current 30-year timeframe.
They were outvoted Tuesday by 70 lawmakers who approved the 30-year agreements as described in the fifth chapter of the draft law. Funcinpec lawmaker Sok San said lawmakers should have voted instead to close forests for logging for 30 years.
At the least, said Funcinpec lawmaker Klok Buddhi, the measure requires more public comment. “We should hold a referendum to ask people whether or not they want forest concessions to continue,” he said.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Cheam Channy said the government would have more control over logging companies if they limited the contracts to 10 years.
“If any concessionaire doesn’t do as they should under their contract, we can stop them. But if they do good, we can allow them to go on,” he said.
Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, defended the concessions and said the government has given each timber company until Dec 31 to finish its Environmental, Social Impact Assessments. The government is requiring the statements from every logging company before it will lift the current moratorium on logging.
Chan Tong Yves said the plans should be written by the concessionaires because they manage the forest, but the government will examine their plans to see if they are sustainable.
CPP lawmaker Ho Naun, who sided with the ministry, said the assembly can’t remove forest concessions from the country because the government uses them to manage its forests.
“We need to generate more income for the state to develop the country,” she said.