Hun Sen Praises Pheapimex Land Concessions

In a letter to King Norodom Si­ha­moni, Prime Minister Hun Sen hail­ed the massive Pheapi­mex con­ces­sion in Pursat and Kom­pong Chh­nang provinces as a “new, landmark event” for Cam­bo­dia and blam­ed the opposition and NGOs for inciting villagers to pro­test against it.

“The continuous protests against Pheapimex in Kompong Chhnang and Pursat were not the result of the people’s own will,” Hun Sen wrote in the letter dated Feb 24.

The premier’s letter was in re­sponse to a letter the King sent on Feb 11, which was prompted by com­plaints he received from villa­gers earlier this year.

Villagers have been protesting against the massive plantation for months, saying the 315,000-hectare concession is illegal and threatens their way of life.

The protests came to a head Nov 12 when hundreds of villa­gers rallied about 5 km from the site. That night, eight were wounded in a gre­nade attack.

“The grenade attack was only aim­ed at blaming the government or the local authorities,” Hun Sen wrote, “because…the grenade at­tack (in which some people were injured and nobody died) was just aimed to make their propaganda voices louder.”

No arrests have been made but the premier said authorities are still in­vestigating.

Hun Sen said it is the villagers who are encroaching on the state land, though authorities are working to exclude from the concession villagers’ land and keep some forest areas for them.

He went on to say the area is a de­­­­­graded forest, as stated in a re­port from the government’s for­es­try mo­nitor SGS released last month, and is only suitable for a plan­tation operation.

“Most of the land is sandy and un­fertile…except for trees such as eucalyptus and acacia,” he wrote.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay dismissed Hun Sen’s allegations that the Sam Rainsy Party and NGOs were behind the protests. “We have ne­ver done that,” he said. “People come to us asking for help.”

Marcus Hardtke of Global Witness said the letter “really displays ignorance and arrogance.”

“I think Hun Sen should fire the adviser who wrote it,” Hardtke said.


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