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Not all economic land concessions listed

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Villagers affected by an economic land concession granted to CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company protest outside the Kampong Speu provincial court in March, 2010. Photograph: Will Baxter/Phnom Penh Post

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ latest list of economic land concessions reveals some peculiar discrepancies with known records of ELCs. Some that have recently been granted are missing, while others known to have been cancelled remain.

The June 8 MAFF list makes no mention of ELCs granted by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 18 to SK Plantation (Cambodia) Pte Ltd for 8,000 hectares in Ratanakkiri province and 7,710 hectares for Le Ye Rubber in Siem Reap province.

The premier fiercely rejected claims late last month that he had breached his own May 7 moratorium on ELCs by granting these concessions, pointing to a loophole in the sub-decree that exempted those that had already been agreed to in principle.

But an ELC that was cancelled in Kampot’s Chhouk district for First Bio-tech Agricultural (Cambodia) Co, Ltd’s 10,000-hectare corn plantation and processing factory also remained on the list.

Several officials from MAFF contacted by the Post yesterday declined to comment.

Naly Pilorge, director of the rights group Licadho, said in an email that clarification was needed.

“The ministry’s silence is a reflection of a systematic lack of transparency surrounding ELCs and the recent order to review these concessions.”

Two controversial adjacent ELCs granted to ruling Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat’s Phnom Penh Sugar Company and his wife Lim Heang’s Kampong Speu Sugar Company in Kampong Speu province are also absent.

So Nguon, owner of the firm World Tristar Entertainment Co, Ltd, which had its 9,826-hectare ELC in Chhouk district cancelled in April, 2011 yet appeared on the MAFF list, said his concession had since been re-granted.

“It was cancelled in April, but I received it back in July after I sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen to create an inter-ministerial committee to investigate my land concession,” he said.

The decision was overturned because Ministry of Environment officials had incorrectly reported to Minister of Agriculture Chan Sarun about his activity on the land, he said.

In the same month that So Nguon says the concession was reinstated, scores of villagers were poisoned from herbicides sprayed by World Tristar Entertainment Co, Ltd on its concession.

To contact the reporters on this story: David Boyle at david.boyle@phnompenhpost.com
May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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