Logging Maps Leave Villagers Confused, Angry

Pich Poeun stared at a logging company map Wednesday afternoon and shook his head. The company had reserved an area of “forest” for his village’s use that was really just a field, he said.

“I will go back and we will discuss this with the other villagers,” the Preah Vihear resident said.

Pich Poeun and dozens of oth­er villagers from around Cambo­dia had waited for the plans since Monday, when they were officially made available. But World Bank and forestry department of­ficials said they could make cop­ies only in black and white, making the maps unreadable.

On Wednesday afternoon, the World Bank distributed a single copy of the plans, and a single co­lor map, for each company. “That’s like giving all of Phnom Penh a single phone book, or giving a single textbook for a school,” remarked Eva Galabru of Global Witness, the country’s of­ficial forestry monitor.

Villagers reported that a few plans were still not available Wednesday afternoon. Disputes also simmered because some maps covered two provinces and were wanted by more than one group of villagers. Villagers said they could not afford to make ad­ditional color copies.

Also Wednesday afternoon, op­position leader Sam Rainsy re­ceived a surprise when he showed up to read a letter urging the World Bank to improve the pub­lic review process. The villagers quickly scattered, only to re­turn a few minutes after Sam Rainsy left. Villagers said they didn’t want to be seen as partisan.

“We’re very pleased Sam Rainsy is concerned about our problems, but if we’re seen as in­volved in a party, we fear for our safety,” Pich Poeun said.

On Tuesday, forestry department chief Ty Sokhun had suggested that the villagers were be­ing steered by outside influences. “Only foreigners are interested in this book,” he told villagers. “May­be somebody took all these people to come here.”

Villagers responded that no­body had influenced them to come. Several villagers said logging companies have indiscriminately cut areas they depend on for forest products to consume or trade. Many villagers had come to Phnom Penh the week before for a workshop on their forestry rights sponsored by the NGO Forum. They stayed af­ter the workshop ended to get the plans.

NGO Forum policy adviser An­drew Cock said he informs local NGOs in provinces about for­estry-related developments in the capital. The local NGOs work with villagers, he said. “Everyone de­serves an advocate,” he said.

Wednesday was the third day of a 19-day public review period for the 25-year cutting plans. The plans are supposed to show how cutting can be made sustainable over that period and gauge the en­vironmental and social impacts of the logging. Villagers are also demanding the review period be ex­tended to at least three months.

On Tuesday, Ty Sokhun told villagers that forestry and company officials would come to villages at a later date to explain the plans. But several villagers Wednesday said they were skeptical that would occur. They said they had not been consulted before cutting began the first time, or before formulation of the current plans.

“I don’t believe they will go and do the right thing,” said Peou Pholline of Mondolkiri. “They said they would discuss with the people [before] and they didn’t.”

Peou Pholline said plans for her area mapped out a community forest in an area that had already been logged. Siem Phan, of Stung Treng district, said his map—like Pich Poeun’s—placed a community forest in a field.


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