Company Keeps Farming on Revoked Plantation

One of 11 firms that had their economic land concessions revoked by the Ministry of Environment on Friday has continued to work its former land in Banteay Meanchey province, according to local residents.

The ministry canceled the concessions claiming the owners had broken their contracts with the government by having failed to develop their properties as promised. But locals say that Leang Bou Construction was planting cassava on its 1,783-hectare concession in Thma Puok district before the government revoked it and has continued to do so.

“The company workers keep planting cassava on the land and this company has not complied with the government’s order,” said Saut Sim, a former soldier and a representative of more than 200 families that have been involved in a land dispute with the firm since 2010.

Rights group Adhoc submitted a letter to provincial Governor Kousoum Saroeuth on Tuesday also accusing the company of continuing to cultivate the seized land, which lies inside the Banteay Chhma Protected Landscape. The letter urges Mr. Saroeuth to “take immediate measures to stop the offenders, who have ignored the government’s order to protect public state property.”

“If the authorities cannot stop the company from doing these activities on the confiscated land, then the order is meaningless,” Adhoc provincial coordinator Soum Chankea said by telephone.

Tuo Tean Teu, a representative for Leang Bou Construction, said the company had not been informed of the government’s decision to take back the economic land concession.

“We haven’t heard that the government canceled the contract and decided to confiscate the land,” he said, declining to comment further.

But district Governor Blek Vary said that following the Environment Ministry’s announcement Friday, local authorities had informed the company to cease all activity.

“I thought the company already stopped activity on the land,” Mr. Vary said.

In May 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a ban on the granting of new economic land concessions and ordered authorities to scrutinize existing ones.

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