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SRP demands probe of land concession

SRP demands probe of land concession

SAM Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said Wednesday he will send a letter to the National Assembly demanding answers about an economic land concession to a Chinese state-owned company that he says may violate the Cambodian constitution.

"We do not agree with the government if they have provided tens of thousands of hectares of land to one company for nearly 100 years," he said.

In April 2008, Prime Minister Hun Sen granted a 36,000 hectare land concession in the middle of the Botum Sarkor National Park to China's state-owned Union Development Co for 99 years, according to both the deputy governor of Koh Kong, Son Dara, and the park's director Nhil Thun.

"The government plans to develop Koh Kong into an ecotourism hub, second in tourists only to Angkor Wat," Son Dara said.

But Yeng Virak, executive director of the Community Legal Education Centre, said that according to the 2001 Land Law, "an economic land concession provided to one owner cannot be over 10,000 hectares. If the economic land concession to the Union Development Group is really 36,000 hectares, then it is a violation of the law".

Koh Kong Governor Yuth Pouthan released a comprehensive zoning and regulation plan last week that places the 36,000 hectares inside an area of the park designated for ecotourism, which would not ban construction in the area.

But the director of the Environmental Watch and Protection in Cambodia, Chea Hean, said the Union Development Co is a major threat to the park.

"This company continues to cut down many thousands of hectares in the forest," he said.

Nhil Thun said that none of the forest had been harvested by Union Development and that 10 National Park officials had even accompanied company employees in a replanting effort.

Union Development's new ecotourism site will include "an airport, seaport, hotel, golf course, supermarket and other pieces of infrastructure", Nhil Thun said.

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