International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Cambodia

Cambodia’s constitution provides that state property consists of land, undergrounds, mountains, sea, sea-bed, undersea-bed, coastline, airspace, islands, rivers, canals, streams, lakes, forests, natural resources, economic and cultural centers.

The constitution stipulates that the State shall: “preserve and protect the environment and the balance of natural resources, by organizing a precise planning for the management, especially of the land, water, atmosphere, air, geology, ecological system, mines, energy, petroleum, and gas, rocks, sands, gems, forests and forest by-products, wildlife, sh and aquatic resources”.

Featured Legislation

1993: The Royal Decree on the Protection of Natural Areas was passed, managing and supervising the development and protection of natural areas, including the protection of the environment, land, forestry, wetland and coastal areas.

1996: The Law on Environmental Protection and Natural Resource Management was signed with the purpose of:

  • Protecting and promoting environmental quality
  • Assessing the environmental impact of all proposed projects before the Government formally makes a decision on them
  • Promoting sustainable use of natural resources in Cambodia
  • Encouraging and enabling the public to participate in environmental protection and natural resource management
  • Suppressing any acts that cause harm to the environment

1999: The Sub-Decree on Environmental Impact Assessment Process was formulated to require an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be done on every project and activity, private or public.

1999: The Sub-Decree on Water Pollution Control was created, regulating water controls in order to prevent and reduce water pollution in public waterways.

2000: The Sub-Decree Forest Concessions Management Sub-Decree was enacted, covering the management of forest concession agreements approved by the Royal Government of Cambodia.

2000: The Control of Air Pollution and Noise Disturbance Sub-Decree was introduced to protect the environment and protect public health from air pollutants and noise disturbances through monitoring, curbing and mitigating activities.

2001: The Law on Mineral Resource Management and Exploitation was passed, covering the management and exploitation of mineral resources, mines and all activities relating to mining operations in Cambodia.

2002: The Forestry Law was instituted to define the framework for management, harvesting, use, and development of forests in Cambodia.

2006: The Law on Fisheries was created to ensure fisheries and fishery resource management; enhance aquaculture development and the management of production and processing; and promote the livelihood of people in local communities in terms of social-economic and environmental benefits, including the sustainability and conservation of biodiversity and natural culture heritage in Cambodia.

2014: This Cambodia Climate Change Strategic Plan (CCCSP) for the period 2014 – 2023, as a cross-sectoral framework, is the first comprehensive national policy document responding to the climate change issue. Building synergy with existing government policy documents such as National Strategic Development Plan(NSDP), Rectangular Strategy, National Policy on Green Growth and sector development plans, the CCCSP is designed to ensure its strategic cohesion to address a wide range of climate change issues concerning adaptation, GHG mitigation, and low-carbon development. The Vision is: Cambodia develops towards a green, low-carbon, climate-resilient, equitable, sustainable and knowledge-based society. The plan’s main goals include reducing vulnerability of most vulnerable groups and critical (natural and societal) systems to climate change impacts; shifting towards a green development path by promoting low-carbon development and technologies; and promoting awareness and participation of the public in climate change response actions.

2017: The Zoning Guidelines for the Protected Areas in Cambodia was tabled. The purpose of the Zoning Guidelines in Protected Areas is to identify appropriate zones with particular emphasis on biodiversity role and conservation, geographic settings, and sociocultural, and economic requirements in order that various strategies for protection, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources can be introduced to achieve management objectives of the protected areas.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Organized criminal activity by timber barons has been tied to Cambodia’s corrupt government officials, who set up ‘economic land concessions’ to plant commodities like rubber. NASA has reported that by 2015: Cambodia had one of the fastest deforestation rates on the planet. According to a recent report, Cambodia lost over 2 million hectares of land between 2001-2019 through the government’s orchestrated land grabbing efforts and human rights abuses for over two decades. Approximately hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have been illegally and violently displaced from their land. This illegal displacement disproportionately affects the minority indigenous people who have lost their ancestral land and their way of life. Activists are calling upon the international community to intervene, identifying recent attacks against indigenous peoples as another Cambodian genocide.
  • Climate and human rights nonprofits are pleading with the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague to investigate “land grabbing” by the government of Cambodia as a crime against humanity under the court’s jurisdiction. According to a brief by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Climate Counsel, at least 830,000 Cambodians have been illegally forced off their land by the government for resource extraction since 2002. Identified as a climate and environmental emergency, “land grabbing” inevitably results in the illegal exploitation of natural resources; the persecution of indigenous people; and environmental destruction. If the ICC pursues an investigation, it would be an unprecedented step in linking crimes against humanity to environmental destruction.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of Environment: