Companies that transfer their land holdings to another firm in violation of government policy will have their concessions stripped from them, the Agriculture Ministry has said.
But the ministry added that in such an event a “partner” firm may be sought to develop the offender’s economic land concession (ELC), providing a potential loophole to any crackdowns on abuses of the law.
If a company is found to have violated the rules, the ministry will seize the land with the aim of converting it into a social land concession – land which is allocated to the poor, landless and veterans.
“If a company cannot implement [its development agreement], the state will seize the land. However, the government will allow companies to find partners in order to develop the concession land,” the statement said.
In July, Hun Sen ordered all government agencies to clampdown on abuses at ELC sites, calling for arrests and fines.
In May 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared a moratorium on the granting of new ELCs and an audit of the existing ones following widespread condemnation by rights groups of documented abuses and displacement of villagers, illegal logging and other forms of environmental degradation.
Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman and under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, said recent incidences of companies transferring land illegally had prompted the ministry to issue the statement.
The executive director of the NGO Forum, Tek Vannara, said that while some companies had followed their investment agreements to the letter, many had had a devastating impact on the environment and local livelihoods.
“There should be clear conditions about the use of the land and abiding by government policy,” he said.