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Land in wildlife sanctuary awarded to private firms

Land in wildlife sanctuary awarded to private firms

PRIME Minister Hun Sen has awarded more than 17,000 hectares inside Kampong Speu province’s Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary to unnamed private companies for agro-industrial development.

According to two sub-decrees signed by the premier on June 23, obtained by The Post yesterday, two concessions of 9,059 hectares and 8,591 hectares in the protected Phnom Oral Wildlife Sanctuary in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune and Thpong district’s Omlaing commune were awarded to the unnamed companies.

The government granted more than 55,000 hectares of land in the national park – which includes the wildlife sanctuary – to private companies for agricultural development, according to sub-decrees signed by Hun Sen and Council of Ministers officials between February and April this year.

The documents stated that the land had been deforested and would be used to replant trees and crops to “help the environment” and “develop the economy”.

Thuk Kroeun Vutha, secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, could not be reached for comment yesterday. However, he told the Post earlier this month that land previously granted to private companies in the area had been cleared some years ago by local residents who produced charcoal from the wood.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the government has rushed to issue land concessions inside the wildlife sanctuary and national parks without considering the impact on local villagers.

“The government only pays attention to the poor in order to invest, and to transfer the people from the city to attempt to hide images of poverty,” he said.

The Post reported last month that an economic land concession spanning 1,400 hectares inside Phnom Oral forest was reclassified for agro-industrial development in a sub-decree signed by the premier on May 24. In April, a 4,700-hectare concession was granted in Trapaing Chor commune, that also included part of Phnom Oral forest area.

Kampong Speu provincial deputy governor Tong Seng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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