Indigenous groups meet with Senate on proposed forest law amendments

Representatives of 16 indigenous groups and communities from the capital and 11 provinces met with a Senate committee on October 19.

Sixteen representatives of 16 indigenous groups and communities from the capital and 11 provinces met on October 19 with a Senate committee to submit eight points relevant to the draft amendment to the laws on forests and protected areas.

Indigenous communities representative Tep Tim told The Post on Oct. 19 that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss draft amendments to the Protected Areas Act 2008 and the Forest Act 2002.

“The Senate is not the decision-maker, but it has spoken for Indigenous peoples regarding their concerns. They welcomed us and accepted our points,” Tim said.

She said the Senate had confirmed that of the eight points, relevant ministries had agreed to five, while three others were under consideration.

Of the three points, she said, the first was the inclusion of “indigenous communities”, as the draft amendment had only stipulated “local communities”, while the second was the inclusion of “crop rotation”.

The third was a request to include the terms of community forestry agreements, with protected area communities having the same time periods and protections as economic land concessions.

Chhim Samuth, another indigenous representative, said on October 20 that representatives of indigenous communities met with the National Committee for Sub-National Democratic Development (NCDD) on August 8.

The NCDD had said that although the drafting of the amendment had been completed, it was still possible to request additional contributions, with indigenous communities submitting all eight points.

Samuth said the Senate confirmed the bill passed the interdepartmental phase on Aug. 8 and was submitted to the Justice Department for consideration.

Kim Santepheap, secretary of state and Justice Department spokesperson, told the Post on Oct. 20 that a department team was still reviewing the draft amendment and nothing had been finalized.