Mystery Surrounds Ownership of HLH Subsidiary

Despite Commerce Ministry records showing the contrary, the involvement of Sokha YLP Co Ltd in the Singaporean firm currently at the heart of a land dispute with indigenous Suoy villagers in the Phnom Aural Wildlife Sanctuary was terminated last year, a man who claimed to be a former HLH employee said yesterday.

According to business registration records at the Ministry of Commerce, Sokha YLP Co Ltd has a 30 percent stake in HLHS Agriculture Cambodia Co Ltd, a subsidiary of HLH Agri International Pte Ltd.

HLH Agri International Pte Ltd owns HLH Agriculture Cambodia Co Ltd, the firm operating the disputed concession area in Kompong Speu’s Oral district.

“Regarding the 30 percent owned by Sokha YLP…the firm already informed the Ministry of Commerce last year that it had withdrawn the 30 percent,” the man said, refusing to reveal his identity.

According to the Commerce Ministry records a director at HLHS Agriculture Cambodia is identified as Sar Sokha, who bears the same name as the son of Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.

Sar Sokha is also on the board of YLP Group, according to the company’s website, where the managing director is Mao Malay, the wife of former RCAF commander-in-chief Ke Kim Yan who now heads up the National Authority for Combating Drugs. Another YLP Group director is Ke Sounsophy, wife of Mr Sokha and daughter of Ms Malay and Mr Kimyan.

“The HLHS company owned by him [Sar Sokha] is not involved with activities in Kompong Speu province. HLHS doesn’t have any operations at all,” the man said.

Lieutenant General, Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said he had no knowledge of Sokha YLP’s stake in HLHS Agriculture Cambodia.

“I have no information about that,” he said.

Commerce Minister Cham Prasidh could not be reached for comment.

Both villagers and rights groups have stated that Hun Seng Ny, the Prime Minister’s sister was present at a meeting between local authorities in Oral district’s Trapaing Chor commune and Suoy villagers in May.

What link, if any, Ms Seng Ny has with HLH Agriculture Cambodia is still unknown.

Eang Sophalleth, assistant to Prime Minister Hun Sen, said he was completely unaware of any involvement of Ms Seng Ny with the Singaporean firm.

The recent commotion surrounding the land dispute between the world’s last remaining indigenous Suoy population in Kompong Speu’s Oral district and HLH Agriculture Cambodia invokes a challenging question for the government.

Does the development of Cambodia’s extractive and agricultural sectors take priority over the preservation of community land and the environment?

On Wednesday Oral district Deputy Governor Muong Thy, said that besides the 9,985 hectare concession that belongs to the Singaporean-backed HLH Agriculture Cambodia Co Ltd, a further ten firms have attained concessions amounting to 50,000 hectares in Oral district.

The firms include Future Environment Co Ltd, which hopes to explore mining activities in the area. Sugar Kompong Speu Co Ltd is also looking into a sugar plantation, said Mr Thy.

“Whenever we have more investment to invest in the agro-industrial sector as well as mining, I think my district will develop and create more jobs,” he said.

A document submitted last week to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by Indigenous People NGO Network, NGO Forum and Asian Indigenous People Pact, said: “Often ‘national economic development’ is invoked as the justification for the acquisition of the lands regardless of who may be harmed by the development.”

“It is also noted that the mass conversion of indigenous peoples’ lands to agro industrial developments could, in theory, limit government income through programs related to climate change.”

 

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