An economic land concession spanning 1,400 hectares has been granted inside Kampong Speu’s protected Phnom Oral forest to an unspecified company by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
A sub-decree signed by the premier on May 24 and received by The Post on Tuesday reclassifies the land, which lies within the Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune and Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, for agro-industrial development.
Thuk Kroeun Vutha, secretary of state at Environment Ministry, said yesterday that land within the protected mountain wildlife sanctuary, where the concession was granted, had been cleared years ago by residents producing charcoal from wood.
“The company will plant corn in the land they received but I’m not sure which company it is because many companies have been granted the right to invest in that area,” he said.
In April, a 4,700-hectare economic land concession was granted in Trapaing Chor commune, that also included part of the protected Phnom Oral forest area.
Ouch Leng, head of the land section for rights group Adhoc, said the government had continued to grant economic land concessions in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks with scant consideration of their environmental impact.
Tuy Sereivathan, a team leader at NGO Flora and Fauna International, said yesterday that elephant populations that had existed in the Oral mountains seven years ago had now completely disappeared from there.
“The elephants moved west due to human activity and land concessions in the Oral Wildlife Sanctuary,” he said.
Ouch Leng said the economic land concessions often also had social impacts, leading to land disputes with villagers who inhabited the area.
Kampong Speu provincial governor, Tong Seng, declined to comment yesterday.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries website, at present 85 valid economic land concessions have been granted to companies in Cambodia, encompassing a total area of 956,690 hectares.