Four Vietnamese military-controlled land concessions in Ratanakkiri province were downsized to a fraction of their original acreage as part of a government audit of land leased to private companies, officials said yesterday, amid opposition criticism of the concessions.
The economic land concessions, all joint ventures between the Vietnamese military and Cambodian investors, originally covered almost 40,000 hectares of Cambodian territory.
But Soy Sona, director of the Ratanakkiri provincial agriculture department, yesterday said that the four concessions – Rama Khmer, Chea Chanrith, Veasna Investment and Dai Dong Duong – were cut to a tenth of their size in late 2015.
In May 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued Directive 01, which prohibited the issuance of new concessions and began a nationwide audit of existing ones. An initial inspection of the concessions by volunteers was followed up by an Agriculture Ministry assessment late last year, Sona said, which led to the cuts.
“After direct inspections, we found the four companies have only planted on 4,000 hectares. So most of the land was confiscated at the end of 2015,” Sona said, without commenting on whether the cuts were made before or after the fact of their military ownership was made public.
The Rama Khmer concession was cut from more than 6,000 hectares to 900; Chea Chanrith’s was slashed from over 5,000 to 778; Dai Dong Duong’s was cut from nearly 5,000 to 800, and Veasna Investment’s was cut from more than 5,000 to about 1,500, he added.
Transferred over 2011 and 2012 to the Vietnamese companies, the four ELCs near the O’Yadav border checkpoint are reported to be linked through their chairmen to the Vietnamese Army’s Corps 15.
Amid ongoing tension over the border issue, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy has said the concessions effectively meant that Cambodian territory had “been turned into a military zone under the control of a foreign country”.
Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, welcomed the decision to scale back the concessions.
“It would be better if the government cancelled the contract, because recently the government said that it is illegal to rent land along the border to foreigners,” he said.