Okhna Try Pheap’s ballooning empire of exclusive natural resource licences and concessions has been expanded even further with the granting of a special economic zone (SEZ)in Ratanakkiri province.
The May 27 issue of the Royal Gazette reveals Pheap was granted a 136-hectare SEZ in O’Yadav district in a subdecree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 7.
“The preparation and operation of the Try Pheap special economic zone will be under the scope of law and regulations of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” the sub-decree states.
It’s been a lucrative year for the tycoon, who in February was given the exclusive right to buy all timber logged in economic land concessions within Ratanakkiri.
He was then granted the right in March to buy and process a controversial variety of timber called yellow vine – the harvesting of which is forbidden under the 2002 forestry law – at the Stung Atay dam site in Pursat province where he has also been licensed to log a reservoir.
Pheap also has a SEZ in Pursat, two ELCs in Ratanakkiri’s Virachey National Park, one in Preah Vihear province and another in Pursat as well as two mining concessions in Stung Treng province.
The Post could not reach Pheap yesterday but his assistant, Bi Chivoandara, told a local media outlet many enterprises would be developed including a five-storey hotel with 100 rooms, casinos, a dry port, administrative buildings, gas stations, bus stops, markets and flats.
“The next step will be constructing rubber factories in the compound, dry ports and other constructions in total worth around $20 million,” he reportedly said.
Ratanakkiri has become a hotbed of land disputes this year between ethnic minority communities and private firms, which have snapped up ELCs in contested areas at a sharply increasingly rate.
In a report released last month, Global Witness drew links between Try Pheap and a major Vietnamese rubber firm, Hong Anh Gai Lai, which it accused of land grabbing, rights abuses and rampant environmental destruction at its concessions in Ratanakkiri.
Chhay Thy, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said Pheap’s further expansion within the province spelled bad news for such communities.
“Giving the right to a company to create a special economic zone is an additional burden for the province because the government has just allowed the company to buy timber from economic land concessionaires so further forest land will be lost,” he said.
Minister attached to the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia Sok Chenda Sophea, who co-signed the sub-decree, could not be reached for comment yesterday.