Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land concessions cancelled

Land concessions cancelled

A truck is loaded with lumber in an economic land concession in Kampong Thom province last year
A truck is loaded with lumber in an economic land concession in Kampong Thom province last year. Amid promises to get tough on poorly performing concessionaires, the government has cancelled eight. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Land concessions cancelled

The government has seized back more than 12,000 hectares of land previously awarded to seven companies as economic land concessions (ELCs), according to a letter from the Council of Ministers.

The letter, which was obtained by the Post yesterday, was sent late last month to the governors of Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu and Koh Kong provinces, and Environment Minister Say Sam Al.

It explains that licences awarded from 2006 to 2011 for eight ELCs in the provinces would be revoked and the land put under the ownership of the Environment Ministry.

Sub-decrees issued earlier this month to three of the companies, Vimean Seila Co, Ltd; Soun Vattanak Co, Ltd; and Chan Rot Group, confirmed the decision.

While the letter did not specify reasons for the seizure, Chhit Sokhum, governor of Preah Sihanouk province, where five of the ELCs were located, said the companies had failed to develop the land.

“The commission went down and saw the companies’ names and saw that they had not developed anything or they had developed little, so we seized the land for preservation,” he said.

“It’s a waste of government time and tax when the companies do not develop” the land, he added.

According to Sokhum, the land will be preserved, and not awarded to other companies.

Buon Narith, Preah Sihanouk provincial coordinator for the rights group Licadho, welcomed the seizures and urged the government to take a stronger approach to all ELCs.

“We see some companies logging and clearing forest and then they do not develop anything,” he said.

Vann Sophath, land reform coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, agreed.

“Most of the companies [use] their concessions as a front for logging because the land of ELCs [is] full of the forest and natural resources. The first target of those companies is logging and exploiting natural resources for their interest and income,” he said.

In a directive last month, the government vowed to strengthen how ELCs are awarded and regulated.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

MOST VIEWED

  • Diplomatic passports issued to foreigners to be annulled

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation will move to annul diplomatic passports issued to those not born in Cambodia. Analysts say the move may be in relation to reports that former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra used a Cambodian passport to register as

  • Hun Sen warns Irish MP of EBA ‘mistake’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday told former Irish premier Enda Kenny, still a member of the EU nation’s parliament, that the 28-nation bloc should not make a “third mistake” regarding Cambodia by using the preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement to “take 16 million

  • The hairy little heroes saving many lives in rural Cambodia

    IN RURAL Siem Reap province, rats dare to tread where no person will, as these hairy little heroes place their lives on the line each day for the good of the local community. The rodents are the most important members of a special team, leading

  • PM warns EU and opposition on 34th anniversary of his rule

    HUN Sen reached the milestone of 34 years as Cambodian prime minister on Monday and used the groundbreaking ceremony for a new ring road around Phnom Penh to tell the international community that putting sanctions on the Kingdom meant killing the opposition. “Please don’t forget