Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned that he will withdraw 30 island development projects, including Koh Tonsay island run by tycoon Try Pheap, from private companies because they failed to develop the land after receiving land concessions.
Speaking during the inauguration of The Royal Sands Koh Rong resort owned by telecom company tycoon Kith Meng in Preah Sihanouk province, Mr Hun Sen said that about 30 islands have not been developed although the companies were granted economic land concessions.
“I give the right to Sok Chenda [Secretary General of the Council for the Development of Cambodia] to withdraw those islands, and check for giving a change to develop it because the companies that received them from the government did not do any development,” he said.
Mr Hun Sen said that he could not allow those companies to continue selling their projects to other investors because the act was against the law.
Mr Hun Sen also ordered all concerned institutions to review the signings of tourism development projects such as Koh Tonsay Island (Rabbit Island) in Kep Province.
“We need to review it because we have already signed for them to develop, but they did not develop it,” he said. “Rabbit Island remains Rabbit Island, so I give an order to take back Rabbit Island because it was granted to three companies.”
“The real investor has the money to invest, but they have no place to invest in because broke investors control those islands,” he added.
At least 28 out of 64 islands in Phnom Penh and three provinces were granted to both local and foreign private companies to invest in tourism, hotel, and casinos with a 99-year lease, according the sub-decrees compiled by rights group Adhoc in 2012.
The reclassification sub-decrees said that the land concessions cover 181,951 hectares of land and were granted to both local and foreign investors from 2008 to 2010.
Thirty-one companies were granted the projects to develop the lands in Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong, and Kampot provinces, and in Phnom Penh, it said.
Adhoc’s list of concessionaires included a veritable who’s who of controversial development companies, including the Try Pheap Company (Koh Tonsay), LYP Group (Koh Kong Knong), TTY Corporation Co. Ltd. (Koh Koan), noting that all the companies were involved in major land disputes.
Yey Meng, who operates a guesthouse on Rabbit Island, said that she welcomed the government to revoke all the licenses from the companies because the villagers who lived on the island could run their own businesses.
“We are very happy about this and we support the government’s policy,” Ms Meng said.
Ho Vandy, president of travel agency World Express Tour, said that since the government began granting concessions to private companies to develop more than 20 islands seven years ago, very little development had materialised.
“I hope this new project will draw more tourists, conserve the nature to benefit local people and society, and be as successful as the Song Saa project,” Mr Vandy said, referring to a high-profile luxury resort off the coast of Sihanoukville.