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One million hectares reclassified, gov’t says

One million hectares reclassified, gov’t says

More than 1 million hectares of forest terrain and land leased by private companies has been put under government control since Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a moratorium on new economic land concessions (ELCs) in May 2012, the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has claimed.

The statement, signed on October 13 and obtained by the Post yesterday, also states that 3.6 million land titles have been issued since the May 2012 order began a process of land demarcation.

At least “370,000 hectares of land has been cut out of ELCs from 134 companies and more than 250,000 hectares of land has been cut from state-owned land and seized forest land,” the statement reads.

The figures provided in the statement were not given as exact and it did not explain how the ministry had reached the figure of 1 million hectares.

On May 7, 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a moratorium on the granting of new ELCs to private companies and ordered authorities around the country to carry out a nationwide land titling program.

In a recent report by the Ministry of Environment, it said that more than 50,000 hectares of land had been cut from 11 companies’ concessions.

But Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said that the land titling program had tended to ignore areas where communities were in disputes with ELC firms.

“They measured some disputed forest land, but people locked in land disputes with ELCs do not have their land measured, so they cannot seek a solution to the disputes,” he said.

Sar Sovann, spokesperson for the Ministry of Land Management, could not be reached.

Reach Seyma, a resident of Kampong Chhnang province who is locked in a land dispute with the KDC Company, dismissed the figures.

“What the Prime Minister’s volunteer students do is just a façade,” he said.

Rights group Licadho said in April that land grabbing had affected 500,000 people over the past 13 years.

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