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Private entities handed state land

The exterior the Ministry of Planning, which was recently transferred to the son-in-law of a senior ruling party lawmaker.
The exterior the Ministry of Planning, which was recently transferred to the son-in-law of a senior ruling party lawmaker. Hong Menea

Private entities handed state land

The government has converted three plots of land in Phnom Penh from state public property to state private property – effectively handing them to private entities – including a Ministry of Planning office on Monivong Boulevard that was transferred to the son-in-law of a senior CPP lawmaker.

The announcement from the Council of Ministers, released in the Royal Gazette last month, briefly describes three plots of land belonging to the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts and the Ministry of Defence that were privatised at the end of October.

State land deals can often be lucrative for private business owners, sometimes with close ties to government officials. In some cases, government offices are moved to less valuable land and the private company is allowed to develop the prime real estate.

According to the sub-decree, a 1,000-square-metre plot of land that currently houses the Ministry of Planning’s General Directorate of Planning was transferred to Ly Chhuong Construction, which is constructing a new office for the department behind the current one, which sits directly on Monivong Boulevard. Chhuong, the son-in-law of senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Ministry of Planning spokesman Chey Nath also could not be reached for comment. However, a Ministry of Planning employee who spoke only on the condition of anonymity said employees are unsure what the company plans to do with the land.

He added that some officials who complained about the swap had allegedly been bribed.

“Some lower officials got $200 to $300, while senior officials got higher compensation,” he said.

Also on Monivong, a 600-square-metre plot of land belonging to the Ministry of Defence was converted into private property and transferred to Mong Chanarith and Sophal Phalyka, according to the sub-decree. The land is currently occupied by the Diamond Hotel. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Chanarith, when reached yesterday, declined to say when he bought the land and said only that he “bought it to sell it back”, and that the hotel was already on the land when the deal was made.

Phsar Thmey II Commune Chief Meas Sopheap said there appeared to be no changes or renovations to the hotel recently and that commune officials did not know who owned it.

“We just know this is state property . . . and heard about a young oknha, but we do not know clearly,” Sopheap said.

The sub-decree also announced the transfer of a 15,000-square-metre plot of land on National Road 5 from the Ministry of Industry and Handicrafts to a man named Kuy Sokmean.

Neth Mony, who oversees the State Property Department at the Ministry of Economy and Finance, said he could only answer questions about the deals if The Post wrote a letter to the ministry.

Mony added that the ministry is in the process of finalising a new draft law on selling state land, expected early next year.

Critics have alleged the government has missed several opportunities in previous legislation and sub-decrees to require transparency when it comes to privatising state assets.

“The selling of state land in Cambodia has traditionally been very unclear,” said Naly Pilorge of Licadho.

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