Saturday, 13 September 2008

60,000 hectares of land ceded to private company for rubber

The government signed contracts with 90 private companies between 1992 and August 2007, ceding 1.178 million hectares of land in 16 provinces. Of these, 37 contracts have been cancelled, with 300,000 hectares reclaimed.

The Phnom Penh Post

Written by Cheang Sokha
Saturday, 13 September 2008

The PM has signed off on the deal for K Thom and Kratie, which is part of the government's vast 'economic land concession' scheme

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has conceded nearly 60,000 hectares of government-owned forests in Kampong Thom and Kratie provinces to a private business owner, according to a letter from July.

The letter, dated July 10 and signed by the prime minister, outlined the government's plan to transfer control of 58,658 hectares of forest to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for its Economic Land Concession program.

The identity of the private company expected to invest in the land has not been revealed, but Kampong Thom Governor Nam Tum said he has received a development proposal from the Thimas Resources Co, which hopes to invest in the land bordering Kratie province.

"We have not yet discussed details of the investment plan with the company," Nam Tum told the Post Thursday. "I'm not sure whether it is a local or foreign company, but they want to invest in rubber production.

"Nam Tum said provincial authorities have more than 200,000 hectares of land reserved for concessions to private business owners. Some 66,000 hectares have already been offered to companies producing rubber, cashews and acacia trees, and employing more than 2,000 local residents.

Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring for the human rights group Adhoc, expressed concern that recipients of land concessions will try to steal additional land from local farmers.

" People living near the development areas always suffer from such projects."

He said many residents have already tried to protest unlawful land seizures by companies but that local and military police have threatened or assaulted them on behalf of the companies.

Problems for residents

"Past experience shows that people living near the development areas always suffer from such projects," Ny Chakrya said. "Before concessions are given, the government should evaluate the impact on local residents and clearly demarcate the area given to the companies."

An agriculture ministry official, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorised to speak to the press, said seven companies have received concessions in Kratie province, while four others have received concessions in Kampong Thom.

"Any company that does not follow the terms of their contract will lose their concession and the land will be reserved for social concessions [to benefit local residents]," the official said.

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