The Agriculture Ministry has frozen the Duong Sruoch Group’s licence to log in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, after the company allegedly failed to honour its pledge to build a road for the locals.
According to District Governor Chea Kim Seng, the land was originally granted to the community as a social land concession in order to build a new village with a road leading to it. Local authorities did not have the ability to clear the land, so it was subcontracted to the company, along with the building of the road.
The Ministry of Agriculture granted Duong Sruoch a licence to log the area, but Kim Seng claims that after the company cleared the forest, the road never materialised.
Kim Seng, who was not district governor when the agreement was made around six years ago, said he checked old records.
“I rechecked their terms and conditions, and the company promised to build a road … They didn’t follow their condition, so I informed the provincial governor,” said Kim Seng, adding the company had logged 1,545 hectares of land.
Kim Seng first filed a complaint to the provincial governor in May 2017, but Agriculture Minister Veng Sokhorn didn’t freeze the licence until January 11.
He said now that the area is cleared, the local authorities will build the road themselves and allow 700 villagers to relocate to the area.
Keo Oum Malis, deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that normally social land concessions are only given to the poor or soldiers, and said any decision to pass it on to a private company was made by provincial authorities alone.
Duong Sruoch could not be reached today, and it’s unclear if the company will face consequences. It is also under investigation in Mondulkiri province, where eight of its suspected employees were arrested for illegal logging earlier this month.