Revised versions of the logging industry’s forest concession management plans are scheduled to be released to the public today, forestry officials said, although some observers voiced skepticism Wednesday over the accessibility of the documents.
A single copy of each 20-year plan, which outlines how each company will log tracts of Cambodian forest under their control, will be available at the Forestry Administration’s public affairs office in Phnom Penh, said Than Sarath, public affairs deputy director. Visitors can read the plans in the office or have the plans photocopied at their own expense.
Representatives from NGO Forum, Oxfam Great Britain, Global Witness and a member of a donor working group on forestry were unaware Wednesday of the release. Their reactions were mixed.
Mike Bird, program representative for Oxfam GB, welcomed the release but said: “I’d be interested to see if there is any proactive attempt to discuss the plans with those actively involved,” referring to villagers living nearby logging concessions. Than Sarath said he did not know if the plans would be distributed to the provinces or if there would be a public comment period.
The decision to release the plans comes after World Bank officials met with the Forestry Administration last week and urged the Administration to make the plans available.
Dennis Cengal, a project adviser with a World Bank-funded project to review the plans, said Wednesday the Forestry Administration dictates the release process. But based on discussions with officials they would probably only be available in Phnom Penh. If the Forestry Administration approves the plans, companies will submit five-year plans which villagers should have a chance to review, Cengal said.
Villagers are entitled by law to see and comment on forestry management plans. But it is unclear whether that requirement applies to the revised plans as the originals were distributed to the provinces in 2002.
The release of those plans was marred by delays and a confrontation where police brandished clubs and electric batons to disburse villagers picketing the former Department of Forestry seeking debate on the plans.
One villager died after the confrontation.
while the plans themselves were widely criticized for false information and inaccuracies.