MORE than 35,000 hectares of land, including territory within a national park, have been set aside for privatisation and development, according to seven recent sub-decrees.
The government intends for the land to be used for rubber plantations, agriculture and ecotourism, and has earmarked territory in Kratie, Pursat, Kampong Thom, Preah Vihear, Kampong Speu and Preah Sihanouk provinces, the sub-decrees say.
Kratie provincial governor Kham Phoeun said he was unconcerned about the privatisation because of the abundance of forest in his province. “We conserve some parts and we develop other parts, because there are tens of thousands of hectares in land here,” he said.
The first three sub-decrees, published on September 27 in the palace’s Royal Work Book, privatised 1,950 hectares of land in Pursat, 8,320 hectares in Preah Vihear and Kampong Thom, and nearly 10,000 hectares in Kratie.
Four additional sub-decrees were contained in a Royal Work Book published on September 30. These directives privatised about 16,000 hectares of land, including roughly 600 hectares in Kampong Speu province’s Kirirom National Park.
Kham Phoeun confirmed that some people lived on the development sites in Kratie. The sub-decrees did not say if any of the land had already been sold.
Tek Vannara, advocacy programme manager at the Culture and Environment Preservation Association, a local NGO, said the government needed to study how development projects would impact local populations.
“We are concerned if the government has given development rights to companies without the active participation of local people,” Tek Vannara said.
He added that the sub-decrees could greatly impact the living conditions of locals within the development areas, and that rubber plantations could take a destructive toll on indigenous wildlife.
Officials at the Ministry of Environment declined to comment yesterday.