A 9,470-hectare swathe of land within a wildlife sanctuary in Ratanakkiri province has been granted to a Vietnamese company, in a move that rights groups say could threaten the livelihoods of nearby villagers.
A sub-decree regarding the economic land concession in Lumphat Wildlife Sanctuary was approved by Hun Sen on April 20 and obtained by The Post this week.
It passes the land to Hoang Ang Andong Meas Co Ltd and states the company plans to develop large agricultural projects including rubber plantations on the site.
The land, in Lumphat district, has been re-designated private land from state forest.
The agreement did not detail the length of time the company would have a lease for the land.
May Saroeun, deputy chief of Chey Uddom commune in Lumphat district, said yesterday that he was aware of the land concession deal and said it could disrupt lives in two villages in the commune.
“I had a look at the map last month and saw the land the government granted to the Vietnamese company overlapped two villages in Chey Uddom commune; Thmey and Sre Chhouk villages, which could affect 300 families,” he said. “The Vietnamese investment would affect the land and rice paddies of ethnic Lao villagers, but I can do nothing because it is the decision of the government”.
He added that the company had used three tractors to clear land close to the villagers’ homes on Tuesday and allegedly threatened to remove the villagers from the area.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, expressed concern yesterday that the land granted by the government to the Vietnamese company “will seriously affect the villagers in Chey Odom commune, so I demand that the government and company clearly study the affect of the grant”.
Kong Srun, Lumphat district governor, and representatives from Ang Andong Meas Co Ltd could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In early March, Hun Sen authorised a similar land concession deal that allowed the felling of about 9,000 hectares of protected forestland in Ratanakkiri’s Vereak Chey National Park, which consists of about 332,500 total hectares of forest land.
It was granted to the Srun Sovannaphoum Investment Co Ltd for rubber plantations, part of a new special economic zone in Ratanakkiri.