The owner of a painter’s workshop in Phnom Penh’s O’Russei district said Thursday that it was a mystery to him how a Chinese rubber company seeking a massive land concession had chosen his address to register as its office with the Ministry of Commerce.
“Why do they know our address?” said Tim Thorn, 47, who said he has lived and worked with his family at 198E, Street 217, since 1992 and had never heard of Suigang Investment Development Co Ltd. China’s official news agency Xinhua announced on March 31 that Suigang had signed a contract with China’s largest rubber producer, Hainan Natural Rubber Industry Group Corp, to plant rubber on nearly 63,000 hectares in Cambodia.
In November a team of Forestry Administration and Agriculture Ministry officials surveyed land covering 66,000 hectares in Preah Vihear province, which was requested by Suigang, and met with company and provincial officials in order to facilitate the deal.
However, Cambodian government officials have said this week that size of the area far exceeds legal limits. Provincial and Agriculture Ministry officials also denied that the concession will be larger than the maximum 10,000 hectares.
Information obtained from the Commerce Ministry on Thursday stated that Suigang’s office has been located at Tim Thorn’s address since April 2005 and is worth $4.8 million, with 70 percent of shares owned by Chinese national Zhang Wenjun and 30 percent by Cambodian Sim Sonthim.
Officials at the Commerce and Agriculture Ministries as well as the Council for the Development of Cambodia said that they did not have a telephone number for Suigang. Moeung Socheat, an officer with local rights group Adhoc in Preah Vihear, said a large share of the province’s 144,000 population live in the concession’s five districts: Tbeng Meanchey, Chey Sen, Chhep, Rovieng and Sangkom Thmei.
Most collect tree resin, honey and timber to subsist, he added.