Allegations that landholders in Svay Rieng province are illegally leasing farmland along the border to Vietnamese farmers are unfounded, provincial officials said Friday in wrapping up an investigation sought by opposition lawmakers.
Five CNRP lawmakers wrote to Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday asking for his immediate intervention to stop farmers they said had leased more than 400 hectares of land to Vietnamese farmers, despite a 2015 order barring the practice.
The lawmakers said more than 196 hectares of land in Tuol Sdei commune, 200 hectares in Chantrea commune and a 40-hectare plot in Bavet City’s Prasat commune had been improperly leased to Vietnamese farmers.
Deputy provincial governor Pich Sovann, who conducted a two-day field investigation with a group of provincial officials that included interviews with villagers and commune authorities, said no inappropriate activity was found at any of the sites.
“Local people in two locations in Bavet and Chantrea communes used to lease farmland to Vietnamese people, but they completely stopped leasing their farmland since the government issued the directive last year,” he said on Friday.
“The third location, Tuol Sdey, I went to this morning. Of course, the land quality is very poor, so the Cambodian owners need to hire Vietnamese expertise to help them,” he said. But “there is no Cambodian farmers’ land along the border leased recently to Vietnamese people.”
Provincial authorities will prepare a report to send to the Interior Ministry next week, he said.
Kong Saphea, one of the five lawmakers who signed the letter to Mr. Kheng seeking the investigation, said the province’s findings were wrong. He said authorities had likely conspired to cover up wrongdoing, which the CNRP learned of through villagers in the area.
“It is really a sad case that provincial authorities do not accept the truth, but they instead are colluding with each other to cover up this issue,” he said.
Mr. Saphea said he would urge the ministry to create an ad hoc committee to investigate all provinces bordering Vietnam.
“The continuation of leasing farmland on the border to Vietnam is so risky for Cambodia’s territorial integrity,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached.