PM Orders Halt to Deals Involving Public Land

Prime Minister Hun Sen has is­sued an order putting an apparent end to the rash of land deals that have swept the country, ac­cording to a document obtained Wednesday.

The prakas, signed June 13, states that property that still has a “public interest” will not be sold, transferred, leased or granted concessions. In addition, public properties that “lose their public interest use” will not be put on the market unless proper laws are in place.

Hun Sen also ordered ministries to cooperate to urgently finish a law on concessions, a subdecree on economic land concessions and a subdecree on legal procedures for the sale and management of State private property by De­cember.

However, while awaiting a regulating law, land concessions must be granted through a “public competitive bidding with transparency,” the prakas read.

“A lot of expensive land is being swapped without any benefit to the government,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity, adding that the government had been contemplating the order since last year.

Despite months of controversial land swap deals, there is no mention in the prakas of retroactive ac­tion against such deals, and the pra­kas states that the new rules start from now.

Land deals have caused “damage to the ruling party’s reputation and [are] causing some chaos within the party, creating a lot of jea­lou­sy and creating a lot of ani­mo­sity,” said Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social De­vel­opment.

The government had to act be­cause of donor pressure and party problems, she said, explaining that while some party members were benefiting, others were losing their work places.

Two business people involved in real estate defended the practice.

“I try to help the government, that’s why I do the swaps,” Phani­mex Director Suy Sophan said.

“It does not affect my land that I just bought because [the prakas] was passed after,” said Mong Reththy, who recently swapped the Royal University of Fine Arts campus in Russei Keo district.

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