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Specified risks related to 18 sub-categories
Full Timber Legally Risk AssessmentList of Applicable LegislationTimber Mitigation GuideDocument Guide
Nearly half of Cambodia is forested. Forest cover decreased from 60% in the 2010 (FA, 2010) to 45% (8.1 million ha) in 2016 (REDD Secretariat of Cambodia, 2016). Unfortunately, different teams of government experts do not agree as to the definition of "forest cover"; with some arguing that rubber and oil palm plantations should be counted as part of the statistical forest cover. The Ministry of Environment (MoE) has stated, however, that the two types of plantations should not be considered forest cover (MoE, 2018). Natural forest cover is categorised as: 1) production forests (PF) and 2) protected areas (PA).
Protected areas cover 7.4 million hectares of land corresponding to 41% of the total forest cover. With regards to forest management, the production forest areas are official sources of timber (Forest Law, 2002), whereas the protected areas are strictly protected, although commercial activity is permitted in the Sustainable Use Zones of PAs (Law on Protected Areas, 2008, Article 11).
Data shows that between 2001 and 2018, Cambodia’s protected areas lost 557,000 hectares of tree cover, about 11.7% of the total protected area in Cambodia. Protected areas provide habitat for hundreds of species that are iconic to the region— some of which are threatened with extinction (Global Forest Watch, 2019). There are several reports and news articles reporting the illegal export of timber from Cambodia, specifically going to Vietnam and China.
Other sources of timber are Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) and hydro-power development areas. The ELC and hydro-power areas may be located within either PF or PA or both; and are designated for conversion of forest to other land uses. Forest governance Cambodia’s administration consists of following tiers: capital city, province, district, municipality, khan, commune, and village. Currently, the Kingdom of Cambodia consists of a capital city, 24 provinces, 165 districts, 26 municipalities and 12 Khans, 1646 communes and 14,073 villages. The national government has oversight of both legal and institutional frameworks of the provincial and local governments. Any regulations that are issued by the government, ministries, and other national bodies have a higher ranking than those of a local administration (ODC, 2015). However, it should be noted that Cambodia’s ongoing decentralization process is specifically intended to provide greater autonomy to the sub-national administrations, including matters of natural resource management. The majority of forest management is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Ministry of Environment (MoE). The MoE has jurisdiction over protected areas while the remaining forest areas are under the jurisdiction of MAFF. Following Sub-decree No. 69 (Sub-decree ANK/BK No. 69, issued on 28 May 2016), a re-organization was put in place such that MoE became responsible for all Protected Area (PA) management; and MAFF responsible for production forests and investment such as Economic Land Concessions (ELCs). MAFF continues to oversee ELCs issued by MAFF, but also takes responsibility for ELCs located inside PAs, which the MoE had previously overseen. MoE is also mandated to be responsible for areas designated as biodiversity conservation corridors, which are newly proposed areas on either the existing production forests or on degraded forests suitable for corridors to allow wildlife crossing from one PA to another. The legislative framework includes the 2002 National Policy, Forest Law 2002, the Law on Protected Areas 2008, the Guidelines on Community Forestry 2006, and the Guidelines on Community Protected Areas (2017). Similarly, the National Policy on Development of Indigenous People (2009), Policy on the Registration and Right to Use of Land of Indigenous Communities, and the Sub-decree on the Procedure of Registration of Land of Indigenous Communities (2009) are relevant. Land types The 2001 Land Law introduced the current land classification system to Cambodia. There are three main categories: private land, state public land, and state private land.
• Private land is property that is legally owned or possessed either individually or jointly by persons or a company.
• State Public Land is all lands that have a public interest value. This includes land of natural origin (e.g. rivers, lake, mountains and forests), protected areas, archaeological and historical sites, and official property of the Royal Family.
• State Private Land is all property that belongs to the state but does not have any public interest value (i.e. does not come under any of the categories listed above). It can be sold or leased, including long-term lease and land concessions, but any such transfer must follow legal procedure.
The distinction between State Public Land and State Private Land is important as it affects how the land may be used and managed (Land Law, 2001). The Permanent Forest Estate is defined as natural and planted forest, including State and Private (Forest Law, 2002), and divided into:
• Permanent forest reserve
• Private forest (on private land) is forest plantations or trees, whether planted or naturally grown, on private land under registration and legal title pursuant to authorize legislation and procedures.
The Permanent forest reserve is state forest located on lands bearing no private ownership rights, which are further classified into production forests and forests of protected areas.
• Production forests (on state public land) have the sustainable production of forest products (and by-products) as their first function. Their protection function is a secondary function. Production forests also include forest areas of community forests (CF); that are granted under agreement between the Forestry Administration (FA) of MAFF and a local community, or organized group of people living, within or near the forest area, and depend upon it for subsistence and traditional use, in order to manage and utilize the forests in a sustainable manner.
• Protected forests (on state public land) have protection of the forest and its ecosystem as their priority. Permits are not issued for the harvest of forest products or by-products, although local communities have customary user rights to collect forest products and by-products so long as the impact is minor. Nevertheless, the Law on Protected Areas states that sustainable use zone could be granted as ELC for sustainable development. In this regard, almost all ELC sites of the protected areas had played main sources of timbers. • Conversion forestland for other development purposes. This is idle land, comprised mainly of secondary vegetation. Land which has not yet been designated for use by any sector shall be classified as permanent forest reserves until the Royal Government decide to use and develop the land for another purpose. Logging in natural forest and protected areas Since 2002 there has been a moratorium in place for timber from forest concessions in natural forests. The moratorium was put in place due to lack of control of timber harvesting in these concession areas. Up until the present time, the operations can be approved and resumed on forest concessions that are suspended but not formally cancelled. This can be done on the basis, that a revised contract agreement and management plan is submitted with a commitment to manage areas under sustainable forest management principles. However, to the present day, no entity holding a forest concession has attempted to resume its activity in this way. As of 2014, there were no records of timber being harvested from concessions in natural forest (Technical Working Group on Forestry Reform, 2014), and there is no information indicating that any new forest concessions have been established since the 2002 moratorium. It was noted during a technical workshop on the Timber Legality Risk Assessment report held in Phnom Penh on 4 October 2019, that not all concessions have been formally cancelled, but that the concessions are no longer in use. Legal timber, as defined by the 2002 Forest Law, can only come from production forests. Nevertheless, the Protected Area Law (2008) allows for the creation of ELCs within the protected area sites, and timber can also be accessed from these areas. The Protected Area Law (2008) is mandated to manage all types of protected area sites for biodiversity conservation. There are four zones that may be established in a PA: core, conservation, sustainable use, and community zones. Commercial activity is permitted within the sustainable use zone, raising the possibility of significant timber harvesting from the PA system in the future. One current reform under consideration is to provide communities with management rights including, rights to enter into contracts for commercial activities, within the sustainable use zone. See the discussion on “Collaborative Management” in the “Emerging Trends” section (Pp. 20). Note that MoE has stated that it will not allow any additional ELCs within PAs, although several mining concessions have recently been permitted, including in contravention of zoning standards in PAs that have completed zoning. Institutions in Charge The main involvement of official institutions can be classified into two: those are involved in domestic legalised timber flows and those involved in only international legalized timber flows.
• The main official institutions involved in domestic legalized timber flows are: Forestry Administration (FA) and Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (PDAFF). The FA is a nationwide official institution covering all provinces of the country whereas PDAFF is mandated to only one province territory. Within the PDAFF, there are offices, one of those is Forestry Administration Cantonment (FAC). The FAC work under immediate supervision of the PDAFF and under indirect supervision of FA. The FAC is administratively supervised by PDAFF and technically and indirectly supervised by FA. • The main official institutions involved in international legalized timber flows are: Council of Ministers (of the Prime Minister level) (CoM), FA, MAFF, Ministry of Commerce (MoC), and General Department of Customs and Excise (GDCE) of the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF). Processes of Obtaining Permissions The technical activities required for obtaining harvesting rights depend on the source type and include: forest inventory, granting of log permit, establishment of log book A, timber cutting, transport of timber and sawmill activities. The forest inventories are conducted under FA technical supervision. The FA is mandated to grant the log permit to a businessperson, to enter into forestlands for establishment of log book A. The log book A is normally included timber volumes for royalty payment. In order to transport timber a permit must be obtained. Enforcement There are three ministries mandated to enforce the laws on harvests and trade of timbers:
1. MAFF is responsible for forest management and development on the areas of production forests. Forestry Administration (FA) and its provincial departments are technically responsible on behalf of the MAFF. Each province consists of provincial FA.
2. MoE is responsible for forest and biodiversity protection and conservation of the protected areas. MoE’s General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection (GDANCP) and its provincial departments are technically responsible on behalf of MoE and function with increasing autonomy. Each province consists of a provincial Department of Environment (PDoE).
3. Ministry of Commerce (MoC) is responsible for timber trade including export and import. Up to the time of writing, MoC’s main responsibility is to issue export permits of timber. Timber export and import are checked by custom officials at all official border check points in Cambodia. According to the Forest Law (2002) (article 76), forest offenses are criminal offenses, which are specially defined in this law. The Forestry Administration officials qualify as judicial police officials and have jurisdiction to investigate forest offenses and file cases and documents with the court.
Aside from the three main ministries in law enforcement of timber harvest and transport, General Department of Customs and Excise of the MEF plays an important role in tax collection prior to any export and import of timbers and timber related products. At all international border checkpoints, the General Department of Customs and Excise closely plays a role in ensuring that timber related products go through official tax payments prior to export and import. Emerging Trends This Assessment has been prepared during a time of dynamic change in the environment and natural resources sector in Cambodia. During the past four years, the following processes have been undertaken and remain underway to various extents:
• A major jurisdictional transfer between the Ministry of Agriculture Forests and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Ministry of Environment (MoE) occurred in 2016. This transfer saw major swathes of former FA-managed production forests and protection forests transferred from FA to MoE, while those ELCs under MoE jurisdiction were transferred to MAFF control. The overall intention of this transfer was to establish MoE’s primacy in conservation while consolidating MAFF’s jurisdiction for production (Sub decree 34, 2016);
• An ongoing process, led by MoE, to create a new Environment and Natural Resources Code. This intended to be a complete recodification of all Cambodian law related to environment and natural resources matters. The process begun in 2015 and to date spanning 11 drafts, the draft code during November 2019 is undergoing internal review at MoE;
• An ongoing process within MoE is to determine how to manage its expanded Natural protected areas system, that now covers 41 percent of Cambodia’s land mass. This includes the entirety of protected areas under MoE jurisdiction as well as the newly created Biodiversity Conservation Corridors (BCCs) (Sub decree 07, 2017);
• An ongoing process within the Forestry Administration is to redefine its scope and mission, including the characterization of its own current land holdings;
• A decentralization process that is accelerating devolution of key responsibilities for natural resource management to sub-national authorities (Circular 05, 2016). One aspect of this has been a years’ long effort led by the Ministry of Interior to create revisions to the Protected Areas Law, Forestry Law and Fisheries Law to accelerate decentralization and clarify new roles and responsibilities. As these reforms move forward, the information presented in this assessment represents the presently documented legal and policy framework. However, in the current rapidly changing environment significant changes should be anticipated in the next 1-3 years. Important potential shifts include the following: Forestry Administration: with much of its jurisdictional holdings transferred to MoE in 2016, FA has been engaged in a process to determine what lands and substantive matters still remain in its jurisdiction; for example, all ELCs in Cambodia (including those transferred from MoE in 2016) community forests and numerous small plot forestation and afforestation areas. FA is intent on developing a proper timber production sector from these holdings and has recently been formulating a new National Production Forest Strategic Plan that articulates these realities. Significant new procedures for timber production and licensing may be forthcoming as part of this plan. There may be other changes to FA’s jurisdiction forthcoming. The draft Environment and Natural Resources Code contains a title (equivalent to a law) on Sustainable Forest Management that represents a complete overhaul of current FA forest classification. Similarly, the Ministry of Interior’s efforts on decentralization may result in other significant changes to the Forestry Law. Meanwhile, although the practice of annual bidding coupes has not been officially annulled, there have been no documented coupes since 2013. Considering the changes that are underway at FA, it seems quite likely that this mechanism will no longer be used in the future. Finally, Cambodia is now formally participating in the FLEGT program - with Cambodia, the FAO, and the EU, agreeing to a FLEGT Roadmap in early 2019. This is expected to lead to an extended period of technical assistance and eventually leading to Cambodia’s own negotiation of a VPA (FAO 2019). Ministry of Environment: Following the 2016 jurisdictional transfer, MoE is still in the process of consolidating its jurisdictional control over the more than 7 million hectares (41 percent of Cambodia’s land mass) under its control (Sokha 2017). There are two relevant considerations as MoE goes through this process. First, while there is not yet any plan in place for the zoning and management of the BCCs, many of these particular areas are interlaced with private land holdings and would seem compatible with significant commercial forest production once proper systems are established. Secondly, while MoE’s holdings currently include 45 protected areas, only 4 of these have been properly zoned to date. MoE is planning a more aggressive effort to zone these vast PAs in the next few years. This is significant because many PAs contain extensive human settlements and the Protected Areas Law specifically allows “development and investment activity” within the sustainable use zone (PA Law, Article 11, 2008). Thus, it seems quite likely that as the zoning process accelerates many new portions of the PA system will be opened to commercial activity. In fact, in acquiring its new holdings in 2016, MoE officials explicitly acknowledged that significant areas of the PA system should be properly assigned to well-regulated commercial exploitation. MoE is now only beginning to come to terms with how to accomplish this. One approach that MoE is considering currently with its partners is the expansion of the jurisdiction of the current CPA system, through a series of reforms locally referred to as “collaborative management (CM).” Under the 2017 CPA Guidelines, CPAs may be established in either the community zone or sustainable use zone of protected areas (in practice, they are often established in PAs where no zoning has yet taken place). A community may enter into a CPA agreement for a 15-year renewable term. Typically, the CPA is on a small parcel of land, in the range of several hundred to typically no more than 3000 ha. Commercial activity within the CPA is limited to sale of NTFP, fishing and eco-tourism activities. The collaborative management (CM) approach would change many of these dynamics. Under CM, communities would receive more robust management rights, including: the right to participate in all management and planning throughout the entire PA; the right to exercise primary jurisdictional control throughout the entire sustainable use zone (as opposed to within a small delimited CPA); and the right to enter into contracts directly with private companies for a wide range of commercial activities throughout the zone provided such activities are consistent with zoning requirements and management plans. The communities are also provided with a proper use right in the form of a long-term rent-free lease, and the term of a CPA agreement (and thus the accompanying use right) is extended from 30 to 50 years. Legal text for this entire framework has been forwarded for inclusion into the code; a process to create a new CM Guideline is also underway. “Community empowerment and development team”, a local NGO, has been working with MoE on the text for the code and the development of the guideline, and it is also operating two pilot CM sites in cooperation with the MoE, sub-national authorities, and local communities. In addition, the MoE is the implementing partner for a new World Bank project, the Cambodia Sustainable Landscape and Ecotourism Project. This recently launched project will, among other things, identify 20 CPAs to be strengthened to conduct a range of ecotourism and community scale commercial activities, potentially including commercial timber production. This project may serve as a catalyst for further governance reforms. A key project priority is the establishment of sustainable conservation financing.
The legal framework of the environment and natural resources sector has recently been under various reforms such as the jurisdictional transfer to the Ministry of Environment, redefinition of Forestry Administration and decentralization process across the country. Significant changes should be anticipated in the next 1-3 years. Since 2002 there has been a moratorium in place for timber from forest concessions in natural forest. The moratorium was put in place due to lack of control of the timber harvesting.
Several legality risks are present in Cambodia timber supply chains. The risks are wide ranging and relate to legal rights to harvest, taxes and fees timber harvesting activities, third parties’ rights, and trade and transport. If you are sourcing timber from Cambodia you should take care to ensure the extensive risks identified are not present in your supply chains or have been sufficiently mitigated. VIEW LESS
The Uppsala Conflict Data Program records that there were 5,082 deaths from 2014-2017. Since 1946, conflict in Cambodia has included extra-state, interstate, intrastate conflicts and one-sided violence.
FSC certified area:
0.008 Mha, updated April 1, 2023
Export ban for logs, rough sawn timber, squared logs with a thickness or width of more than 25cm, and firewood and charcoal from natural forests.
Logging concessions within the Permanent Forest Estate have been suspended since 2002.
Export ban for all timber exports to Vietnam was reported in 2016. An official decree on this decision is not available.