The government has granted more than 7 million hectares of land to private companies through concessions since 2008, with 222 private companies claiming more than 2 million hectares alone in economic land concessions, rights group Adhoc said yesterday.
Ouch Leng, head of Adhoc’s land program, said that data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and government sub-decrees revealed that the government had granted about 2,153,408 hectares in economic land concessions to private companies.
He added that the total figure reached 7,021,771 hectares out of a total 17,651,500 hectares in the Kingdom since 2008, if mining and forest concessions for logging purposes are included.
“If we add all the concessions, including forest concessions and mining concessions, the government granted about 7,021,771 hectares,” he said, adding that about 1,101,080 hectares awarded were classified as protected land.
Ouch Leng said that the government had granted about 3,400,000 hectares in forest concessions and 1,468,363 hectares in mining concessions.
“In 2011, the government granted more land in protected areas than in previous years, now we are left with about 386,294 hectares of land and about 664,624 hectares of forest land [in protected areas],”
he said. “Our land is nearly finished; the government should stop providing economic land concessions to private companies.”
He added that if the government did not stop awarding the land concessions, there would be no resolution to land disputes and the land protest movement would continue.
Ou Virak, director of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said that it was surprising the government had granted so much land to private firms and that the concessions affected many people, including ethnic minorities who had lost their traditional farmland. “It does not just affect people, our forests are also destroyed,” he said.
Chut Wutty, director of NGO Natural Resource Protection Group, said that rubber plantations in particular had grown in popularity and private companies planted rubber trees without thinking about natural resources. “[Concessions] have a serious impact on our villagers of whom 80 per cent depend on rice farming,” he said.
Chan Tong Yives, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said yesterday that he was not sure how much land the government had granted to private companies and referred questions to the Ministry’s under secretary of state Ith Nody.
“I think that report is not true, we don’t give that much land,” he said.
Ith Nody declined to comment.