Senior officials at the Ministry of Interior have concluded a preliminary investigation into allegations that Cambodians living along the border with Vietnam have been illegally leasing land to Vietnamese farmers.
About 1,000 families owning almost 7,000 hectares of land in five provinces have rented the territory out without the government’s permission, the preliminary investigation found, according to Chan Chansopheak, director of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Administration.
Chansopheak said the data was received this week from provincial authorities in Takeo, Svay Rieng, Prey Veng, Kratie and Kandal provinces.
In total, the provinces reported that 6,631 hectares of land had been leased to Vietnamese individuals on Cambodian territory, with more than half that total being rented by 263 individuals in Takeo province.
“Based on the data and reports that the ministry received from each provincial investigation, it shows that only ordinary people have rented the land to Vietnamese. No senior officials have been involved in this,” he said.
Real Camerin, an opposition lawmaker who has championed the border issue among opposition activists, welcomed the government’s findings, but urged the investigators to dig deeper into who was behind the phenomenon. “It is a real concern, especially for people who face a farmland shortage,” he said. “This could lead to a lowering of living standards and people will become poorer.”
Independent social researcher Meas Ny said he thought it likely that provincial authorities were masking the real extent of the problem.
“It’s a start, but I urge the government to investigate further, as it could be that more land has been rented to the Vietnamese that we know about,” he said.