THE government has granted more than 4,000 hectares of protected national park land in Koh Kong province to an agriculture company owned by Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat, who has been at the centre of several land disputes stemming from controversial land concessions.
In accordance with a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and dated March 12, Ly Yong Phat’s company, the LYP Group, has been given a 10,000-hectare Koh Kong land concession, 4,100 hectares of which cuts into Botum Sakor National Park.
Ly Yong Phat confirmed Wednesday that he had received the concession, but said he had not yet finalised development plans for the site.
The senator’s companies have previously been awarded concessions in Koh Kong, Kampong Speu and Oddar Meanchey provinces that have led to fights with villagers who accused the companies of impinging on their land.
In Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey, those concessions led to mass evictions, and villagers in Kampong Speu are currently embroiled in a dispute with Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company.
Ny Chakrya, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said the decision to grant the senator another concession was inappropriate in light of the ongoing dispute in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district.
“The concessions are meant to develop and help the people, but we see that many people have suffered from the concessions,” Ny Chakrya said.
Mathieu Pellerin, a consultant for the rights group Licadho, said national parks are supposed to be protected, but that protected areas had been opened up by other recent land concessions. In February, for example, Hun Sen granted 1,650 hectares of Ream National Park in Preah Sihanouk province to the Hong Kong Research Investment and Development Consulting Group.
Nhil Thun, director of Botum Sakor National Park, could not be reached Wednesday, and provincial Environment Department Director Kao Sinthuon said he didn’t know about the Koh Kong concession.