Forestry Department chief Ty Sokhun turned away about 30 rural villagers seeking copies of forest management plans for their areas, saying that forestry and logging company officials would instead come to their areas and explain the plans to them.
Ty Sokhun did not say when the officials would come to the various provinces, but told villagers that “if the company does not discuss with the people yet, they have no right to cut. If they cut, we will punish them.”
Villagers went to the World Bank Monday, the beginning of a 19-day public review period for the 25-year cutting plans. The Bank had agreed to keep the plans in its library.
But Bank officials balked at making copies for the villagers to take home and said they had only received black-and-white copies, making color-coded maps unreadable.
Villagers vowed Monday to stay until enough color plans were available. Bank officials said Tuesday that one color copy for each concession would be given out Wednesday afternoon. But Nuon Eak of Kratie province said he could not afford to make more color copies, so he was going home Tuesday.
Ty Sokhun also said the plans were “only of interest to foreigners” and that the 19-day period “only applies to people in Phnom Penh.” He declined to answer questions after the meeting.
Forestry legislation guarantees public review and consultation in development of concession management plans. Some of the plans released Monday said the 25-year cutting plans would be followed by shorter-term “compartment” plans, including villager consultations. But forestry officials recently suggested to donors that those plans are no longer necessary.
Cambodian Timber Industry Association President Henry Kong said Monday that companies have suggested locations for community forests—areas reserved only for village use—in the long-term plans. Companies will consult with villagers after the plans are approved and will “re-look” at the plan if the villagers disagree with the locations, he said.
The long-term plans were technical and only of interest to forestry experts, so the 19-day review period was sufficient, Kong said.