The government said Monday that it has finished drafting a tough, 142-article law to help Cambodia save its forests from destruction. But few details were disclosed.
Announcement of the draft law comes as the government prepares to ask donors for aid this week at the Consultative Group meeting in Tokyo. Forestry is expected to be one of the top agenda items at the meeting.
The International Monetary Fund cut off funds to Cambodia in 1996, largely because of corruption in the forestry industry.
“Although we have already taken tough measures [in recent weeks to curtail illegal logging]…the government needs a law for permanent enforcement,” Heng Vong Bunchhat, senior adviser to the Council of Ministers, said at a press conference.
Under the draft law, “anyone who has no license for timber exploitation, even those carrying only chain saws, will be punished.”
Heng Vong Bunchhat said the draft law, which also calls for a log-monitoring system and a tree replanting fund, was written in French and a Khmer-language version to be submitted to the Cabinet for approval would not be ready until March. Copies of the French draft weren’t released.
Cambodia’s Forestry Director Ty Sokhun said Monday that he was not aware of the details of the draft law. “We will enforce it when it is adopted by the National Assembly,” he said.
Conservation Director Chay Samith of the Ministry of Environment said Monday that a new forestry law will not be effective until the big, licensed sawmills outside concession areas are closed.
“If licensed sawmills without concessions still exist, how can illegal logging be suppressed?” Chay Samith asked. “Even if the forestry law was adopted by the Heavens, it cannot be effective…if there is no strict enforcement.”
Ty Sokhun and CPP-controlled television recently have been trumpeting a government crackdown on sawmills.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press).