China’s largest rubber producer has signed an agreement with a little-known Cambodian company to plant rubber on nearly 63,000 hectares of Cambodian territory, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported Friday.
But Cambodian officials said Monday that the government has not given investors final permission to begin the massive plantation, and warned that a concession of that size would be illegal and could encroach on protected forest.
Hainan Natural Rubber Industry Group Corp and Cambodian firm Suigang Investment Development Co Ltd signed a contract Friday to allow the Chinese firm to use the land concession to plant rubber and establish wood and rubber processing factories, Xinhua reported. Xinhua did not reveal the intended location of the plantation, though Cambodian officials said it has been slated for Preah Vihear province.
“We will adopt the latest industrial standards in the project, taking advantage of Cambodia’s abundant natural resources,” Wu Yarong, a chairman of the Hainan firm’s board, was quoted as saying by Xinhua.
Sim Sonthim, chairman of the Suigang board, reportedly stated that the project will improve the living standards of the Cambodian people.
An official at the Chinese Embassy said he was not well informed enough to comment on the case.
An official at the Council for the Development of Cambodia, which must approve all foreign direct investment above $2 million, said the government had not approved the project.
While the CDC has been contacted about the deal in the last three months, neither company has submitted a formal proposal for the concession, he said, adding that he had heard the firms may hope to establish the concession in Preah Vihear.
The CDC official added that the 2001 Land Law prohibited concessions greater than 10,000 hectares. There are several controversial concessions that far exceed this limit.
Preah Vihear Deputy Governor Nhou Houng said no agreement had been made to allow the development to go forward. But he added that he was aware that a Chinese company had been seeking to plant rubber in Sangkum Thmei, Kulen and Choam Khsan districts, which he said have red soil suitable for growing rubber.
“For me, they are most welcome,” he said.
Pol Kham Nare, deputy chief of the Forestry Administration’s Northern Tonle Sap Inspectorate, said that as far as he knew, those districts fall entirely inside protected forest and animal sanctuaries.
“It is impossible to allow those districts to be used for land concessions,” he said. “I do not believe the government will allow clearing the forest for rubber…if those forests go, our forests are completely finished.”