TWO more sections of protected conservation areas in Kampong Speu province have been allocated to Cambodian companies pursuing agribusiness development projects under a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen that was published this week.
The land in Aural district, which totals 17,650 hectares, has been allocated to Great Field International Limited and Yellow Field International Limited, according to the January 8 sub-decree , which was included in a periodic rundown of Royal decrees and sub-decrees published this week by the Council of Ministers.
Hem Sophy, the governor of Aural district, said he did not know how many residents stand to be affected by the development projects, though rights workers in the province said they were concerned that members of the Suoy minority group living in the area would lose land they depend on to support themselves.
Sim Chao Sok, an investigative officer for the rights group Adhoc in Kampong Speu, said private development would almost certainly lead to excessive clearance of the district’s forests.
“The minority groups living in the area depend on forest byproducts, and they need to hunt animals to support their families,” he said. “So the act of clearing the forest in the area by the developers could mean that both the environment will be destroyed and the groups’ livelihoods will be threatened.”
He went on to draw a parallel between the Great Field and Yellow Field concessions and a 6,000-hectare concession awarded to HLH Agriculture Cambodia, also in Kampong Speu’s Aural district, which has drawn criticism from activists who say it will harm Suoy families living nearby.
Sem Chao Sok noted that the government and HLH Agriculture Cambodia have promised that the Suoy land will be protected.
“HLH Agricultural Cambodia promised that they will not clear the Suoy families’ land,” he said, adding that the company would be required to put poles around land claimed by the families.