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Government revokes five land concessions

Ministry cites companies’ failure to deliver on development projects and job creation

THE government has pulled licences for five agricultural concessions after companies failed to develop the land, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Chan Sarun said Monday.

Officials would not release the names of the companies but said they held 99-year leases that were pulled in the second half of 2008.

"The government wants companies to develop the country for reducing poverty, but we confiscate licences if they do nothing for development or haven't created any jobs," said Chan Sarun.

As of last month, almost one million hectares of land had been granted to private companies, according to a report by the Agriculture Ministry.

"The total number of contracts has been increased to 65 companies, with a total  land area of 912,275 hectares," the report stated.

Concessions are often granted for degraded forest that the government has opened to both local and foreign investment and are part of a government plan to boost the agricultural sector, according to the report.

But Son Chhay, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman, said the government's figure of nearly one million hectares is only half of the actual amount.

He estimated that an additional million hectares are owned by military leaders and powerful officials.

Son Chhay called on the government to stop offering economic land concessions and force licence holders to develop the land or face confiscation.

"Many economic-concession lands have not been developed. Some dishonest investors, mostly logging companies, got the land and just logged it," said Son Chhay.

"If those lands had been developed, a half-million to one  million jobs could have been created."

Ream Sophon, executive director of Cambodia Farmer Economic Development, urged the government to stop providing economic land concessions, especially to foreign investors, and instead give concessions to the poor.

"Providing land concessions  to private companies is a good opportunity for high-ranking officers and investors to commit corruption," said Ream Sophon.   

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