National Assembly lawmakers from Funcinpec and the Sam Rainsy Party attacked the land law Monday for ambiguous language and contradictions that could lend a “helping hand to legal corruption,” parliamentarians said.
At the forefront of the debate was the land law’s article 59, which grants 10,000-hectare land concessions to investors who agree to develop the land. The article stipulates that the government can designate “special cases” and give select concessionaires more than the allotted 10,000 hectares.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay criticized the granting of concessions to developers or investors, adding that under a similar land law concession agreement in the Philippines, investors are granted only 2,000 hectares.
“It is a very big concession that we give to these investors considering that we lack sufficient land for thousands of Cambodians who are landless,” Son Chhay said. A land concession is given for 99 years, according to the law’s article 61.
“When this law takes effect, it will give government officials the ability to check all land, and when they find a prosperous concession of more than 10,000 hectares, they will ask for a bribe in order to get the ‘special cases’ designation,” said Keo Remy, a Funcinpec lawmaker. “That is a legal corruption officials can make, and they will be protected by law.”
Son Chhay also lambasted the government for granting concessions to Ariston, the large Malaysian developer that runs the Naga casino in Phnom Penh. According to Son Chhay, Ariston never utilized the land they were given.
Officials from Ariston, however, said the disputed land in Sihanoukville is currently being developed.
Meanwhile, Funcinpec lawmakers confronted CPP lawmakers over Article 7 of the land law, which says that only post-1979 land ownership is recognized by the state. Many Funcinpec assembly members said they want the law to acknowledge ownership of land before 1979, when the Khmer Rouge were ousted by Vietnamese troops.
Under the land law, some state land will be turned over to needy individuals and families, who will eventually receive rights of ownership.
The National Assembly has passed 268 articles, but 94 articles remain.
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