National Assembly Debates Protected Areas Law

The National Assembly on Tues­day entered the second day of de­bates on a draft protected areas law, focusing primarily on how local communities and indigenous people fit into the overall picture.

Environment Minister Mok Ma­reth said that the government is working hard to refine the boundaries of protected areas in Cam­bodia, as stipulated by the law, and clearly demarcate what land is set aside for local communities, what is sacrosanct and what is available for development.

“We are working to make a clear [protected area] map,” he said, add­ing that current maps do not accurately reflect the lay of the land, as some of it has been granted to local communities since the boundaries were drawn years ago.

Up to this point, most concern over the draft law has centered on the potential environmental damage of opening conservation areas to mining and development projects.

During the opening day of debate on Dec 21, Mok Mareth said the potential for development in currently protected areas—which total 18 percent of the country’s land area—needs to be balanced against the need for conservation.

“The more development, the more economic improvement. Please don’t be narrow-minded,” he said.

On Tuesday, he touted the success of local communities that have already been granted land by Prime Minister Hun Sen from previously protected areas in Koh Kong, Battambang and Kompong Speu provinces, adding that more land needs to be set aside for local communities.

Mok Mareth said that the government had already found it necessary to give 10,000 hectares of protected forest in Mondolkiri province, where 90 percent of the land is forested, to villagers for farming.

“We could not avoid it. The people need the land for cultivation,” he said.

Funcinpec lawmaker Monh Sa­phan, who defended the law, said it was paramount that local communities be given clearly outlined territory for their own use, but added that the law isn’t clear enough on how they will receive land titles.

SRP lawmaker Ho Vann said he didn’t agree with the portion of the law that bars indigenous people from the traditional practice of rotational farming.

“The law prohibits the people from having mobile plantations, but the law does not state the solution and how to the help the people,” he said.

Mok Mareth said that once communities have drawn up their own statutes on how to manage designated areas, the Ministry of Land Man­agement will award them titles to the land. He added that after zoning is completed, indigenous people will have their own land, and therefore will no longer need to move their farms around.

(Additional reporting by Prak Chan Thul)


By Prak Chan Thul

The Cambodia Daily

Around 600 people including Buddhist monks and nuns, high school students and ethnic Chams marched in Phnom Penh on Tues­day for peace and in support of the Khmer Rouge tribunal.

The march, organized by the Documentation Center of Cambo­dia and led by 12 monks, traversed the 7 km from the Phnom Penh International Airport along National Road 4 to the Extraordinary Cham­bers in the Courts of Cambo­dia on the outskirts of the capital.

Buddhist nun Yin Kean from Kampot province said that she was marching for peace in Cambodia.

“During the Khmer Rouge re­gime, it was very difficult,” the 72-year-old said. “We don’t want any more war.”

On the unusually hot December day, Yim Kean was one of the 50 or so older marchers who had to be transported by ambulance some of the distance due to tiredness.

Nun Yeay Lort, 66, from Siha­noukville, said one reason for the march was to show that people are not looking for revenge against former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“There is no grudge, we want it to end,” Yeay Lort said, adding that seven of her relatives were killed during the Khmer Rouge regime.

Farina So, an ethnic Cham and team leader of DC-Cam’s Muslim Oral History project, said Chams have chosen the Koran’s path in their attitude towards the former Khmer Rouge leaders.

“In the Koran it says if they kill one of us, we can kill one back, but it also states that we should forgive without rancor,” she said. “We march here to show we have chosen the second path, which is forgiveness,” she added.

ECCC spokesman Reach Sam­bath told reporters that the march to the tribunal offices was the biggest one yet.

Marchers were told that they could not see the suspects Tues­day but would have the opportunity to do so during the upcoming hearings.

Sat Rorm, 62, from Siem Reap province, said that regardless of what happened to the former Khmer Rouge leaders, they would still face punishment in the next life.

“A sin by any individual, that individual must receive,” she said.

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