The National Assembly passed a chapter of the forestry law urging newlyweds to plant two trees before getting a marriage certificate, despite objections that the provision was just a distraction from illegal logging.
“This will create a new tradition of tree-planting for the Cambodian people,” said Chan Tong Yves, secretary of state for the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Seventy-nine legislators voted yes and 11 abstained.
The chapter says newlyweds “shall be encouraged to plant two trees prior to receiving a marriage certificate.”
But several legislators interpreted that as a mandate, and complained that the bill violated people’s rights to marry.
Funcinpec legislator Nan Sy said the provision “may create an opportunity for corruption” because officials may demand money for the trees.
“The government should educate children to plant trees and encourage it, rather than forcing them to do it,” he said.
“What about newlyweds who live in Phnom Penh who find nowhere to plant?” he added. “Does the government have land for them to plant on?”
Chan Tong Yves suggested that the government set up a park for planting trees. He said his ministry could supply saplings to newlyweds, because it already plants 1.2 million saplings a year as part of reforestation programs.
The chapter also establishes a “National Forest Development Fund” headed by the agriculture and finance ministers.
The fund would use timber premiums, aid revenues and other sources to fund conservation programs.
The legislature has spent one month and five days debating the forestry law and has passed 12 of its 18 chapters. In that period the Assembly has failed to reach a quorum 10 times, delaying debate each time.
“When we are acting so slowly, how can we represent the people and the nation?” CPP legislator Ek Sam Ol asked.