Forest policy and administration

Logging truck in Mondulkiri protected forest , Cambodia. Photo by Global Water Forum, taken on 23 February 2014. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Cambodia is deeply concerned about deforestation. While the country seeks fast economic development, forests represent a tremendous national treasure. In order to help ensure sustainable management of this resource, the Government established the Forest Law which was ratified on August 15, 2002.

The law emphasizes the importance of forests for their social, economic and environmental benefits, as well as their role in biological diversity and cultural heritage1:

“The Royal Government of Cambodia considers the ecologically, socially and economically viable conservation and management of forest resources as a major pillar of public welfare directly contributing to environmental protection, poverty reduction and socio-economic development.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is the legal authority with general jurisdiction on forest policy and administration. It carries out this work through the Forestry Administration.

Legal framework

Following the Land Law of 1992 and the Law of Natural Resources Management of 1996, the Forest Law was established in 2002.

The main areas the Forest Law handles are forest management, forest concessions and resource extraction. Community forestry is also one of the major subjects in the forest policy. It is supported by a large body of additional law texts that give forces to the National Forest Sector Policy2.

The forest sector is divided into multiple zones3, each having its own set of related laws and management priorities:

Permanent forest estatesPermanent forest reservesProduction forest
Protection forest
Conversion forestland
Private forest
  • Production Forests are managed to ensure sustainable production. This category contains Forest Concessions and Community Forests.
  • Protection Forests are protected for the value of their ecosystem and natural resources.
  • Conversion Forestland is forest yet to be allocated in one of the other categories.
  • Private Forests are managed under the discretion of their owners.

Two systems of concession exist in Cambodia involving forests. Economic land concessions (ELCs) and forest concessions are long-term leases allowing different kinds of activities. Forest concessions are granted through public bidding and should not exceed 30 years. The objective is to bring larger forest areas under active management and to reduce illegal logging, as well as to enhance timber value4.

Customary user rights and access to the forest must be guaranteed by the concessionaire. Like the ELC, the forest concession must carry out an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment.

The forestry administration

Forest management is the responsibility of the Forestry Administration (FA). This authority is in charge of implementing the Law of 2002 and its subsequent sub-decrees and Prakas. It is divided into 5 levels: central, regional inspectorates, cantonments, divisions, and districts level.

The primary task of the FA is to ensure the sustainable management5 of the Permanent Forest estates, by:

  • Conducting research and collecting data;
  • Assessing forest boundaries, in accordance with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction;
  • Taking measures to prevent forest destruction;
  • Promoting public education;
  • Preparing and implementing the National Forest Program.

Conservation of wildlife is also one of the responsibilities, especially by controlling wildlife hunting.

The FA is also in charge of measuring forestry activities. It uses hammer-stamp in order to differentiate legal from illegal logs. The Administration issues permits for harvesting forest products and by-products for commercial purposes. It includes a prohibition on harvesting certain forest products within the Permanent Forest Reserve such as rare tree species or trees that yield high-value resin.

Only local communities have the right to collect forest products and by-products within the Protection Forest, if their impact on the environment remains limited.

Sanctions can be taken by the Forest Administration (FA)6 through fines or the obligation to repair damages. Offenders risk up to 10 years in prison and 100,000,000 Riels (approx. $25,000).

Forest carbon trade became one of the responsibilities of the FA in 20087. Following the 2007 Kyoto Protocol, it gives value to carbon stocks in forests.

National forest program

The National Forest Program (NFP) was launched in 2010 and set up a 20-year plan, divided into 6 major special area programs8:

  • forest demarcation, classification and registration;
  • conservation and development of forest resources and biodiversity;
  • forest law enforcement and governance;
  • community forestry;
  • capacity and research development;
  • sustainable forest financing.

These programs are themselves divided into several sub-programs. The NFP is giving strategic directions for sustainable forest management to fulfill national development objectives. In the case of forest law enforcement within Protected Areas, the Ministry of Environment is given responsibilities of applying its management there.

Two of the major goals of forest management are to become self-financing, and regain 60% of forest cover by 20299. A controversial remains regarding this calculation, because there are disagreements on whether rubber trees should be included in the accounting10.

Challenges and opportunities

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recognizes several challenges11 such as equality of benefit sharing, fragile land tenure and forestland grabbing. These result from problems regarding the forest policy’s implementation12. However, many reforms in the forest sector are under ways13.

In the mid-2015, the Government announced steps to reduce economic land concessions (ELC) durations from 99 years to 50 years, and in early 2016 acknowledge an intention to turn 1 million hectares of ELC14 into social land concessions (SLC).

In March 2016, the Government decided to clarify some responsibilities between Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, and Ministry of Environment15. Authority over ELC currently managed by the Ministry of Environment will be transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture, while those protected areas and nature preserves that are currently managed by the Ministry of Agriculture will pass to the Ministry of Environment.

A month later, upon the request made by the Ministry of Environment (MoE), the Royal Government of Cambodia is planning to put 5 forest areas under the natural protected areas16. Under the initiative of the ministry, the national workshop was organized to collect feedbacks from all the stakeholders for classification of these forest areas into appropriate types of the natural protected areas. And, a sub-decree was introduced for its establishment17.

Updated on 13 June 2016

Related to forest policy and administration


  1. 1. Prime Minister SEN, HUN ‘Statement of the Royal Government on National Forest Sector Policy’, 26 July 2002.
  2. 2. Ibid
  3. 3. Forest Law 2002, Royal Government of Cambodia, Article 10.
  4. 4. Kim Phat, N., Ouk, S., Uozumi, Y., and Ueki, T. (2001); FAO (2002 and 2005); World Bank (2005 and 2006).
  5. 5. Forest Law 2002, Royal Government of Cambodia, Chapter 3.
  6. 6. Forest Law 2002, Royal Government of Cambodia, Chapter 14 and 15.
  7. 7. Sub-decree on delegating carbon trade to the Forestry Administration,
  8. 8. Implementation Program, National Forest Program 2010–2029, Royal Government of Cambodia,
  9. 9. Ibid
  10. 10. Will Tucker 2015. ‘Lifting the Veil: Deforestation Disguised as Agriculture in Cambodia’, Forest Trends, August 13 2015.
  11. 11. ‘Cambodia forestry outlook study’, The Forestry Administration. Proceedings for APFOS II, 2010, FAO.
  12. 12. Zsombor Peter 2013. ‘Loss of Forest in Cambodia Among Worst in the World’ The Cambodia Daily, November 19 2013.
  13. 13. May Titthara 2016. ‘Gov’t Asked to Protect Nearly 1 Million Hectares of Forest’, Khmer Times, March 30 2016.
  14. 14. Niem Chheng 2016. ‘Bodies swap control over ELCs, preserves’, The Phnom Penh Post, March 7 2016.
  15. 15. Sub-decree on Changes in Roles and Duties of the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries 2016, Article 1.
  16. 16. Ibid
  17. 17. Bun Sengkong 2016. ‘Conservation duties swap ministries’, Cambodia Daily, 02 May 2016.
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