European Delegation Criticizes Land Concessions

A European Parliament delegation on Feb 8 alleged that companies with land concessions are exploiting Cambodia’s natural re­sources and engaging in an “all take and no give” relationship with the country.

“I must warn you, be careful. You must not allow them to ruin your country,” said Gio­vanna Corda, vice chairwoman for the European Parliament delegation for Southeast Asian and Asean re­lations. She said the companies should be improving local infrastructure, building schools and medical clinics.

Concerns had been raised during visits the delegation made to affected communities in Pursat and Kompong Chhnang provinces, said Hartmut Nassauer, chairman of the delegation, which concluded its five-day visit Friday.

In Pursat, villagers alleged that a company with a 3,000-hectare land concession had cut down trees and shut down a road to a pagoda, Nassauer said.

Representatives of the company could not be reached for comment, but Pursat provincial governor Chhay Sareth on Friday denied anything improper or unlawful had happened regarding the concession, saying that the dispute was complicated and the European delegation’s allegations were unfair.

“Their statements were made to spoil the name of the Cambodian government,” he said. “We follow the law.”

Nassauer said the delegation was impressed with Cambodia’s pro­gress, but a lot more has to be done, he said, including fighting corruption and improving the investment environment, governance, financial administration and the judiciary.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said they were taking seriously the fight against corruption,” he said.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap disagreed with the delegation’s assessment, noting that the government had created the Na­tional Authority for the Reso­lution of Land Disputes in 2006.

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