The government has reclassified 23,182 hectares of state land in Preah Vihear province for private development by three agro-industry firms, paving the way for them to secure economic land concessions (ELCs).
Reclassification of state public land to state private land is a key step toward establishing ELCs, concessions that Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a temporary moratorium on in May amidst mounting criticism that the country was being rapidly carved up among businessmen.
But a loophole in that moratorium, criticised by rights groups as self-defeating and deliberately vague, allows the government to grant ELCs that had previously been under negotiation.
On August 3, the prime minister signed off on the reclassification of land in Borie, Kulen and Roveang districts to Green Choice (Cambodia) Co, Ltd (7,863 hectares), Aminent Elite (Cambodia) Co, Ltd (7,359) hectares and Distinct Harvest (Cambodia) Co, Ltd (7,960 hectares) respectively, according to the latest Royal Book.
The land reclassification process is managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries according to a statement announcing the reclassification from Preah Vihear Provincial Hall.
When asked yesterday whether the government should still be negotiating ELCs in spite of the moratorium, Chan Sarun, minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. declined to comment, saying he was busy with a guest.
It Nody, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries could not be reach for comment.
Numerous ELCs have been granted since the premier announced the moratorium, and Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator at the rights group Licadho, said this was yet another example of the insincerity of the premier’s actions.
“We don’t know how many companies will continue the procedure, so it makes the people confused with the government and the directive 01 [ELC moratorium] ineffective,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at firstname.lastname@example.org