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Details on cancelled concessions sought

A week after Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would be cancelling an unknown number of economic land concessions in Prey Lang forest, activists called for details on the annulled concessions, saying such revocations would be meaningless unless they could be policed.

“If the government shows us the company name [owning the cancelled ELC], it will be easier for us to figure out which companies are illegally logging in Prey Lang,” said Phok Hong, a villager representative from Preah Vihear province for the Prey Lang Community Network, which on Friday issued a statement urging the government to release information on the cancelled concessions.

“What I am worried about is that government will just stop [the concessions] for a while and later on will allow them to start again.”

On September 28, the Prime Minister said in a Council of Ministers meeting that he would be cancelling a number of concessions in the 3,600 square-kilometre, highly biodiverse Prey Lang forest. ELCs have proliferated in Prey Lang in recent years, often skirting provisions in the land law and threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of mainly Kuy ethnic minority residents facing the fallout of mass deforestation.

In the statement sent to the Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, members of the Prey Lang Community Network commended the recent announcement but called for greater transparency regarding the cancelled concessions. They also noted that, thus far, “not one of the companies has stopped their actions at all”.

Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun and deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, Lim Leang Se, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he didn’t have details.

“The reason the prime minister decided to cancel those companies’ [concessions] is because he doesn’t want to see development like that,” he said.

At least 33 companies currently have rights to develop within the forest. In July, the premier cancelled four ELCs totaling more than 40,000 hectares.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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