Government Urges Land Concession Firms to Respect Law

Environment Minister Say Sam Al met with private firms with land concessions last week to gauge their compliance with government rules and regulations, and adherence to their own contracts.

Rights groups have long accused the government of turning a blind eye to firms with concessions on leased state land, letting them illegally evict families, grab their property and clear forests with impunity.

Amid mounting local and international pressure, Prime Minister Hun Sen in mid-2012 ordered a freeze on granting new economic land concessions and a legal review of the ones already approved, known as Directive 001.

According to a statement posted to the CPP’s website, Mr. Sam Al met with firms holding concessions on Environment Ministry land last Monday in Phnom Penh.

“We checked on each company because we want to know wheth­er they implement the government’s Directive 001 to strengthen the effectiveness of their economic land concessions,” the statement says. “We appealed to all companies to implement their projects by respecting their contracts and the law.”

Under Directive 001, the government threatened to suspend the licenses of firms in breach of their contracts.

Contacted yesterday, however, Mr. Sam Al said the meeting was not so much to hold the firms ac­countable for missteps as to help them overcome any challenges.

“We met the companies to reach an understanding about what difficulties they face and so we can find a way to help them,” he said.

Mr. Sam Al declined to comment further on the meeting or the progress of Directive 001.

Most of the economic land concessions granted by the government—covering more than 10 percent of the country’s land area, according to NGOs—fall under the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In a report released earlier this month, rights group Licadho said that, nearly two years since Mr. Hun Sen issued Directive 001, there was no sign that an effective review of existing concessions was taking place.

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