Quorum Failures Haunt Forest Law Debate

In three weeks of work, the Nation­­al Assembly has approved seven out of 18 chapters of the draft forestry law—a major piece of legislation meant to bring or­der to the sometimes anarchic logging industry of Cambodia—despite repeated delays in the de­bate caused by absent lawmakers.

Thursday’s session was ad­journed without debate when just 79 lawmakers came to the de­bate. It was the sixth time that a session was canceled due to lack of a quorum since the forestry law debate began.

The debate saw some progress this week, however, as lawmakers on Wednesday amended the draft law to explicitly say that government approval is required before a private business can export wood products from forests that are not already part of a logging company concession.

The lawmakers also approved a chapter Wednesday on permits and authorization, granting pow­er to a new government of­fice that has not yet been established to issue all forestry permits for in Cambodia.

The law will require that anyone logging for commercial purposes in Cambodia first get ap­proval from the Forest Admin­istration. Local communities who use forest products in their subsistence lifestyle are exempt and will not be required to get permits to collect such things as deadwood for fires, wild fruit, honeycomb or wood for construction of a house. Funcinpec lawmaker Nan Sy called for transparency in the issuing of permits. He said some officials bilk poor people or companies by withholding permits until bribes are paid.

“I would like to appeal to the government that they have to create an environment of transparency and confidence for people and investors, or else people won’t have confidence in the government,” he said.

The forestry debate has drawn criticism from environmentalists who said the draft law should be scrapped and rewritten.

The law’s creation of a central administration to handle all forestry is­sues—tentatively titled the Forest Administration—may only make it easier for corrupt practices to continue, monitors have charged.

 

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