Prime Minister Hun Sen has agreed to revoke some land concessions for pine plantations in Mondulkiri province due to encroachment into protected areas.
In a letter to the Prime Minister dated January 13 and released by local media yesterday, Minister of Agriculture Veng Sakhon described how the Economic Land Concession (ELCs) areas of Wujisan and Hour Ling companies to plant pine trees in O’Raing and Sen Monorom districts were illegally occupying thousands of hectares through encroachment.
In addition, there was also the clearing and illegal fencing of state-owned pine plantations where King Norodom Sihamoni planted trees on National Tree Day in 2005, he said.
Sakhon said that in some cases the land was confiscated from one person to another by local officials and some places even had a title deed held by a small group of people. Additionally, the natural forest areas of valleys and streams in the ELCs have been illegally restricted.
Mondulkiri provincial spokesman Chak Mengheang told Khmer Times yesterday that the provincial administration has already sent a report to the Ministry of Agriculture and Minister of Interior Sar Kheng for action.
He said that provincial officials are waiting for the decision from the government. “[Yesterday] officials and prosecutors came to the site. We seized more than 1,000 metres of barbed wire on the land that has been encroached,” he said.
He added that the grabbed land covers about 58 hectares and the provincial Environment Department is handling the case.
Human rights organisation Adhoc senior investigator Soeng Sen Karuna said the civil society congratulated the people, as well as the fact that indigenous people who suffered land grabbing by the company will have a solution.
“We support the head of government to continue to visit the locations in other provinces because other people have been waiting a long time for a solution so that they can use the land and improve their families’ livelihoods,” he said.
Sen Karuna added: “In the past, the land management of the authorities was limited, so before granting any land concession, it is necessary to study and assess the impact on the people, the community and the environment to find a clear solution first, to avoid giving investment companies [concessions of land] that have not yet been resolved.”
In 2020, there was also a review of a land encroachment case in O’Raing and Keo Seima districts. At that time, the people involved in issuing the land purchase documents were fined and the governor of Koh Nhek district, Sin Vanvuth, was removed from the office for his involvement.