Environment Minister Say Sam Al on Monday said that more than 9,000 hectares granted to companies as economic land concessions (ELCs) were recently taken back from the owners because local villagers had been farming the land first, and announced that 14 companies had been put on a watch list for violating unspecified regulations.
During a press conference at the Environment Ministry in Phnom Penh, Mr. Sam Al said the land—all of which lies in protected areas under the ministry’s jurisdiction—included 3,000 hectares in Preah Sihanouk province inside an ELC owned by well-known businessman Mong Reththy.
The minister stressed that the companies “did nothing wrong,” but failed to explain why the government granted the land to the firms in the first place if it was already being cultivated by locals.
The reverted land comes on top of the 117,000 hectares the ministry took back from ELCs in 2014.
As for the companies put on notice Monday, Mr. Sam Al did not explain what they had done wrong, but said they would each be given a year to “work on their procedures.”