Policing of Economic Land Concessions to Begin

The ministries of environment and agriculture pledged publicly Wednesday to begin policing the use of Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) across the country, as per Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders in May 2012.

The ministries on Wednesday released a joint proclamation witheight articles that aim to “strengthen the implementation of provisions and technical work…in order to ensure all [ELC] projects are sustainable, transparent, accountable and effective.”

“Investment and development companies must carry out the tiger skin policy by ensuring that no harm is done to villagers or their land, community forests or conservation land,” the ministries said, referring to a policy that aims to issue land titles to villagers living inside ELCs.

The new directives from the two ministries mirror an edict made by Mr. Hun Sen in May 2012, which put a moratorium on new concessions being handed out and ordered closer monitoring of existing ones.

Rights groups have long charged that ELCs allow powerful businesspeople to evict families and stockpile illegally logged luxury timber, and that concessions often overlap with protected forest.

Article six of the ministries’ statement aims to police logging of luxury timber in and around concessions.

“Companies must guarantee that there will be no felling of trees inside conservation areas or outside the company’s concession and must not purchase illegally logged wood from outside to store” inside the ELC, it says.

The article adds that any timber felled legally but not wanted by companies should be handed over to the Agriculture Ministry and auctioned.

Chan Soveth, head of the land program for local rights group Adhoc, said that the new directives gave him little hope that concessionaires would be better regulated or that affected families would be protected.

“If implementation of ELC management remains poor, the inter-ministerial declaration is nothing more than a declaration.”

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