Cambodia suspends economic land concessions

Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com
May 07, 2012



A portion of Virachey National Park as viewed by Google Earth in Cambodia. Last year Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, approved a 9,000 hectare (22,200 acre) rubber plantation inside the park as apart of the government's economic land concessions.
A portion of Virachey National Park as viewed by Google Earth in Cambodia. Last year Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, approved a 9,000 hectare (22,200 acre) rubber plantation inside the park as apart of the government's economic land concessions.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced today that Cambodia would be temporarily suspending new economic land concessions and would revoke any concessions from companies involved in illegal logging, the evictions of locals or land-grabbing. The announcement comes two week after the high-profile death of local forest activist, Chut Wutty, who was shot and killed by military police while investigating illegal logging with two journalists.

In a statement the Cambodian government said the suspension of land concessions was due to a "necessary and urgent need to guarantee equity and to strengthen the effectiveness of granting economic land concessions".

Recently Cambodia has handed out a slate of massive land concessions to private corporations—including a number in national parks and on local lands—leading to conflict with local communities, outcries from conservationists, and large-scale protests.

According to the the Cambodia Human Rights and Development Organization (Adhoc), two million hectares (4.9 million acres) have been handed off to foreign corporations for logging, mining, agriculture, and other development, comprising over 10 percent of Cambodia's total land area. Another human rights group, Licahdo, estimates that half of Cambodia's arable land is now in the hands of foreign corporations.

Chut Wutty, head of the National Resources Protection Group, spent his life fighting deforestation, illegal logging, and most recently the booming practice of economic land concessions. His untimely death, which has produced several official but conflicting accounts of what happened, has outraged activists in Cambodia and shed new light internationally on rising deforestation in the Southeast Asian country.

Despite the announcement from the Cambodian government, human rights activists remain wary.

"There are still disputes with even stronger protests to come," Chan Soveth with Adhoc told Reuters.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Cambodia lost 22 percent of its forest cover between 1990 and 2010, an area larger than Haiti. As of 2010, around 57 percent of the country was covered in forest, but only 3.2 percent of this was primary forest.

Conservation International (CI) has labeled the forests of the Indo-Burma region (comprising Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and parts of India) as the world's most imperiled. Only 5 percent of the region's historical forests remain.



Aerial view of illegal logging in Koh Kong Province where forest activist, Chut Wutty, was shot dead today. Photo by: Paul Mason USAID/Cambodia/OGD.
Aerial view of illegal logging in Koh Kong Province where forest activist, Chut Wutty, was shot dead today. Photo by: Paul Mason USAID/Cambodia/OGD.















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CITATION:
Jeremy Hance
mongabay.com (May 07, 2012).

Cambodia suspends economic land concessions.

http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0507-hance-cambodia-land-concessions.html