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Representatives of minority groups play musical instruments during the signing of a forestry project in Ratanakkiri
Representatives of minority groups play musical instruments during the signing of a forestry project in Ratanakkiri on Wednesday. Heng Chivoan

Land concession woes aired

Village representatives in Ratanakkiri yesterday shared their land grievances with the European Union ambassador, requesting he relay to the government their appeal that no further 99-year land concessions be granted to private companies.

Although the Post was not permitted to attend the full two-hour meeting, NGOs present at the discussions said that five village representatives described to Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain how economic land concessions have taken a negative toll.

“Some ethnic groups have no communal lands because of the titles awarded to companies, which close the land off for private use,” said Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc. “This leads to the loss of ethnic identities and no land left for the younger generation.”

“Until now, no company has planted crops on the [concessionary] lands – the companies are too busy with logging forest,” he said, adding that Adhoc had suggested that in upcoming meetings with the government, the ambassador urge officials to quickly register land for the communities before it disappears.

Cautain said in return that he will mention the concerns during his scheduled meetings with relevant authorities, according to an NGO present.

But the government yesterday offered a different take on the long-term effects of ELCs.

“We need the economic boost in our province. Agro-industrial crops are very promising,” said Environment Minister Say Sam Al.

Sam Al added that agro-industrial crops are expected to turn a profit in five to 10 years and as a result, villagers will benefit from more jobs processing products.

In Ratanakkiri, the government has allotted just over 135,500 hectares in land concessions to 30 private companies, according to Keo Saveurn, the provincial deputy governor.

Among those concessions, 18 were granted by the Ministry of Agriculture and almost all the land was allotted for rubber plantations.

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