The Preah Sihanouk province land management committee is in the process of issuing land titles for 82 families in a recently converted forest area, as well as from an economic land concession (ELC) belonging to the Mong Reththy Group.
The Cambodian government issued a sub-decree in February to grant villagers land in more than 1,300 hectares of a forested area near Prey Nop district’s Kea village, as well as 56.2 hectares from tycoon Mong Reththy’s ELC.
Tith Vuthy, the district governor, said the sub-decree is in accordance with a ministerial proclamation on ELCs that stipulates that people living on and cultivating land before May 7, 2012, should be granted ownership.
“But those who have been living or clearing land after . . . are considered illegal owners,” he said.
Bou Narith, Licadho’s Preah Sihanouk provincial coordinator, welcomed the sub-decree, which he said adhered to the so-called “tiger skin principle”, which aims to reduce the impact of ELCs on villagers’ farming land and on forests.
“If they want to stay [on the land], an ELC owner has to exclude them from their project by following the tiger skin formula,” meaning that land inhabited by farmers must be cut out of the concession area.
Monivann Tan, vice president of the Mong Reththy Group, which maintains a palm oil plantation in Prey Nop district, said he did not oppose the sub-decree. “We agree [that some villagers] were occupying the land already,” he said.