The government recently privatized about 1,900 hectares of land in Ratanakkiri’s Andong Meas district for locally owned Chang Ly Rubber Company after a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen converted the land from state-public land to state-private land, according to district governor Nong Darith.
Mr Darith said that while the land is in two communes, Nhang and Malik, villagers’ farmland will not be affected by the privatization, adding that the sub-decree was signed Nov 30 and the company is in the process of planting a rubber nursery.
“I already well informed the commune chiefs to disseminate the fact that the privatization of state property was made for both the public’s and the government’s interests,” Mr Darith said. He said he did not know the price paid for the concession.
The Nov 30 sub-decree bears the signature of the prime minister and orders the Agriculture and Finance ministries to fulfill the privatization.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the sub-decree would harm a number of powerful individuals in the government and wealthy business figures who had allegedly already purchased and cleared state-public forest for rubber plantations of their own.
“To privatize state property for a company will bring benefits to the local people but the privatization zones…are being occupied by a number of powerful officials and individual businesspeople who have cleared and planted rubber trees on the state’s land,” Mr Bonnar said,
He said his organization received a complaint from a local businessman who lays claim to 20-plus hectares of land in Nhang commune.
“That man fears his plantation is facing seizure,” Mr Bonnar said, adding that it is common for businessmen and powerful government officials to hire local indigenous people to clear forest and pay local authorities to stamp land ownership documents.
Mr Darith dismissed Adhoc’s claims, saying, “No senior officials or rich people are illegally claiming ownership or are encroaching on the land within the privatization zone.”
Contact information for Chang Ly Rubber Company could not be obtained yesterday.