The great Koh Kong land rush: Areas stripped of protection by Cambodian gov’t being bought up

Politicians and companies have been snapping up the newly degazetted land, among them a firm suspected of being a front for pulpwood giant APP. Among those said to be profiting from the land grab is Ly Yong Phat, dubbed “The King of Koh Kong,” a politician and businessman with a long history of quashing the rights of those who occupy land he desires.

In July, conservationists in Cambodia sounded the alarm over a regulation that saw eight protected areas in Koh Kong province collectively lose territory twice the size of Phnom Penh, the country’s capital.

Officials said the move, affecting nearly 127,000 hectares (314,000 acres) under Sub-decree No. 30, was meant to grant land titles to communities living throughout the protected areas.

But an investigation spanning six districts of Koh Kong supports conservationists’ concerns that the sub-decree would be abused by Cambodia’s wealthy elite.

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