Cambodia’s Land Concessions Yield Few Benefits, Sow Social and Environmental Devastation

Cambodia’s government has strenuously promoted long-term leasing of unused land as Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) to attract investors and encourage development in the impoverished nation, but observers say the policy has resulted in few benefits at the cost of huge social and environmental impacts.

Since the early 1990s, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has worked to carve the country up into small parcels of land available to private companies at bargain basement prices. The country’s 2001 Land Law granted the government the right to issue ELC leases of up to 99 years under the pretext of improving local economies and establishing a thriving agroindustry.

But over the past two decades, Cambodia’s land leasing policy has led to more than a tenth of the country’s land area being leased and has become increasingly controversial because of its negative impact on local livelihoods.

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