The Cambodian government has reclassified 12,000 hectares of wildlife sanctuary to make way for agro-industry concessions for three companies, according to the royal book issued on March 19.
The land has been cut from the Kulen Promtep Wildlife Sanctuary, the largest protected area in Cambodia, which covers 402,500 hectares of land at the juncture of the Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey and Siem Reap provincial borders.
According to the royal book, on March 13 Prime Minister Hun Sen signed three sub-decrees granting concessions to three private companies for agro-industry and rubber plantations.
The sub-decrees annul all other legislative provisions concerning the land, including laws protecting the sanctuary.
When contacted by the Post yesterday, Pol Kham Narei, director of the Forestry and Administration Department in Preah Vihear, said that recently an additional 10 companies had received development rights for land totalling about 100,000 hectares.
“All the land that the government granted to private companies is because it is a ruined area and has not many trees. If we keep it for free, we have no profit; if we rent it to private companies, we can get profit,” Pol Kham Narei said.
The director-general of the General Department of Administration for Nature Conservation and Protection at the Ministry of Environment, and a representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries did not respond to requests for comment about the additional concessions.
Ouch Leng, land reform project co-ordinator for the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that in 2011, 10,537 hectares were carved from the wildlife sanctuary and granted to 18 companies.
Human-rights group Adhoc said last week the Cambodian government granted 225 private companies about 2.2 million hectares of land from protection areas and wildlife sanctuaries last year.
This land was to be used for agro-industry.
In 2012, the Post has reported on concessions totalling 26,993 hectares being granted to private companies.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]