Prime Minister Hun Sen signed off on a proposal to convert nearly 21,000 square metres of land in Phnom Penh, Preah Vihear and Stung Treng provinces into state-private land, which will allow for their development.

The largest parcel to be reclassified is the 8,228-square-metre plot that currently houses the Preah Vihear Provincial Commerce Department.

The smallest – the Phnom Penh office of the municipal Women’s Affairs Department, in the city’s Tonle Bassac commune – measures just 234 square metres.

The conversion of state-public land to state-private land is a key step that often precedes granting a long-term lease or concession to a private company. Land rights advocates have often looked askance at such deals, which they say are ripe for corruption.

At least one of the parcels – the municipal women’s affairs office – appears to already be under construction, with one local shop owner confirming that the building had been emptied out and put under construction “long ago”.

The office of the Phnom Penh municipal police’s Financial Crime, Drugs and Human Trafficking Department in Tuol Kork district was also converted, as were the Tuol Kork District Hall, the Daun Penh District Hall and the animal health office of the Stung Treng Provincial Agricultural Department.

Ministry of Land Management spokesman Seng Lot and Ministry of Women’s Affairs spokesman Phon Puthborey could not be reached.

Century 21 Mekong CEO Chrek Soknim said land values for the plots could vary widely, but noted that the nearly 5,000 square metres in Tuol Kork taken up by the district hall and the police office could be worth between $10 million and $25 million alone.