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Death points up urgency of ELC review

The government needs to act – and act now – to review all economic land concessions, which un­derscore the Kingdom’s dark disease of violent land disputes, rights groups said yesterday.

Ten days after Prime Minister Hun Sen signed a regulation for an immediate and indefinite moratorium on any new economic land concession grants and a review of all existing ones, a teenage girl, caught up in a protest over farmland, was shot and killed by military officials.

“This morning’s [death] was linked to a conflict that arose from a land concession, and this further highlights the urgency of a review by the government of all land concession,” Licadho consultant Mathieu Pellerin said.

“An honest review of all land concessions issued by the government whether technically labelled as economic land concessions or otherwise is necessary,” Pellerin said. “These land concessions granted by the government have led to land conflict.”

After the regulation was announced, which was determined by the Council of Ministers a day after the murder of forestry activist Chut Wutty, the Post contacted government officials to enquire about the implementation of the regulation.

At the time, officials did not have answers.

Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun could not be contacted. Secretary of State Chan Tong Yve referred all questions to an under-secretary of state at the department of planning and statistics.

The under-secretary, Ith Nody, could not be reached yesterday, while Chhay Sakun, deputy director of the department of planning and statistics in charge of economic land concessions, declined to comment and referred all questions about how the regulation would be implemented back to the ministry management level.

However, Council of Ministers’ spokesman Ek Tha yesterday said that the regulation demonstrated Hun Sen’s firm commitment to addressing the issue.

“Recently, our Prime Minister issued a direct order to suspend ELCs, this shows the government commitment to pay more attention to the social needs of our people,” Ek Tha said. “We all must respect and execute his policy for the benefit of our people and the nation as a whole.”

Rights groups were initially sceptical of what change the regulation would introduce, with some labelling it a “political ploy”.

Pellerin said yesterday’s incident only added to doubts.

“The real issue here is whether the government has any will to do any type of real review,” he said. “A 14-year-old girl dies less than 10 days after the issue of the regulation – it doesn’t go very well to identifying whether there is any real will of the prime minister.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Bridget Di Certo at bridget.dicerto@phnompenhpost.com
Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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