BBC Asks Hun Sen Government about the Provision of Land to Companies using the Development Concession Image – Monday, 23.3.2009

Posted on 24 March 2009. Filed under: Week 605 |

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 605

Apologies for the delays in publishing – we are almost up to date – last Sunday’s editorial is still delayed – it will come later in the day.

Norbert Klein

“Facing questions by the British Broadcasting CooperationBBC – about land concessions in Cambodia, rights abuses against people over land issues, the exercise of power by the leaders of the country, and providing land to partisan merchants’ private companies using the system of economic concessions, a representative of the Hun Sen government, Svay Sitha, responded back and forth repeatedly.

“Some points of his answers make one think that he does not know the process of land issues in Cambodia well. Frequently, he used the word ‘probably’ in his answers to protect the director of the Pheapimex Company, who is close to the prime minister and his family.

“Svay Sitha, who is an opportunist politician, who took the chance to become a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, close to Deputy Prime Minister and Senior Minister Sok An, who is also close to Mr. Hun Sen, and who answerer to the questions, saying, ‘Cambodia hears frequently voices repeated, especially from non-government organizations, that publish things in an attempt to disgrace the government.’

“His explanation shows that he acted as if he were a defense lawyer of the Pheapimex Company of Cheung Sopheap, called Yeay Phou [Grandmother Phou], and of Lao Meng Khin, who is an Oknha, who then became a politician as an advisor to Prime Minister Hun Sen. Svay Sitha mentioned three conditions for the government to provide land concession to different companies, including the Pheapimex Company. He explained that unless a company has a clear plan to use the land, has work experience, and has sufficient resources for the operation, when a land concession is offered by the government.

“The Pheapimex Company of Yeay Phou, who is close to Prime Minister Hun Sen and his wife, and who frequently shares her money for the prime minister’s use for different occasions, was focused by the BBC regarding more than 310,000 hectares of state land and citizens’ land, delivered by Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party government to this private company, while by now, there has nothing significantly been achieved from the use of that land.

“Regarding this point, Svay Sitha said that ‘probably’ the government has a reason to allow this company to have the right to control land concessions without activities on that land. Particularly, Svay Sitha seemed not to know what is the progress of land issues in Cambodia well, since he said that both the Cambodian People’s Party [CPP] and Prime Minister Hun Sen conducted so-called land reforms in 1981, in 1988, and in the early 1990s.

“What this secretary of state and spokesperson of the Council of Ministers, who is close to Mr. Sok An, had said shows that he does not know the events and issues which led to different land disputes at the present time. What he raised was in the last period of the State of Cambodia [1989 to 1993] ruled by the CPP with Hun Sen as prime minister, which used the term ‘Economic Autonomy’ as the goal to manage state property, such as factories and land, to be later sold to merchants who piled up the benefits of their money and property, which now changed into another image, by which the government led by the same person and the same partisans use the term ‘Economic Development’ in order to hide the selling of state property and state resources.

“The Pheapimex Company of Yeay Phou, who is a big merchant woman, whose husband Lao Meng Khin became a senator for the Cambodian People’s Party, due to special influences which were mentioned by different press agencies inside and outside of the country,and by observers regarding her close relation with leaders of the country. This company has the right to control up to 350,000 hectares of land in Pursat and in Kompong Chhnang, which is against the Cambodian law, which allows one company to hold only 10,000 hectares of land concessions.

“Particularly, also farming land of people in different districts in Kompong Chhnang and in Pursat, including pagodas and other places of the people, are included in the invading maps of the Pheapimex Company, which has received licenses from the Hun Sen Cambodian People’s Party government. This case triggered strong protests from people until activities of this company were stalled, and Svay Sitha explained that ‘probably’ the Hun Sen government has some reasons to let this company continue controlling land without conducting development activities.

“This is a question of the BBC to seek answers from the Hun Sen government from Svay Sitha, who was made responsible for responding to questions of the BBC over Hun Sen’s government using power and positions to provide land concessions to partisan companies that have close relations, providing benefits.

“What Mr. Svay Sitha answers seems to follow, is what Prime Minister Hun Sen had told Sok An, ordering him to help clean the reputation of the government over the provision of land concessions and economic concessions to partisan companies, under the pretext of development of crops and of agro-industry. He tried to clarify, saying, ‘There is no such case that companies that have relations with Samdech Dekchor or other powerful persons in the government [receiving land concessions].’

“Recognizing that local companies provide more benefits than foreign companies, Svay Sitha’s answer was as if he admitted this when he said, ‘This principle (to provides land concessions to local companies) is applied when somebody would come to invest leasing land in Cambodia through economic concessions.’

“This explanation of Svay Sitha about the provision of economic land concessions contradicts what a member of the National Assembly, the chairperson of the Commission on Economy, Finance, Banks, and Audits, Cheam Yeap, who is also from the Cambodian People’s Party, had said. Mr. Cheam Yeap said in an interview with Radio Free Asia recently that the government should not lease land to neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand, for fear of losing land, like in previous historic experiences. He said so after a foreign newspaper had quoted Svay Rieng governor Cheang Am as saying that 100,000 hectares of land along the border is kept for leasing to Yuon [Vietnam].

“Contradicting to what Mr. Cheam Yeap had said, Svay Sitha told radio BBC that the government really provided land concessions to neighboring countries. Svay Sitha said, ‘There were Memorandums of Understanding signed between Cambodia and different neighboring countries for their investment.’

“Anyway, Svay Sitha described Yeay Phou’s company, ‘The Pheapimex Company has capital and the capacity to work, and the company “probably” has the most capital – which means it is better prepared.’

“Answering back and forth repeatedly in an attempt to clean up the bad reputation of the Hun Sen government over his negligence, what led to land disputes and land grabbing from people around the country, Svay Sitha indirectly criticized the former commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Ke Kim Yan, as he was removed from his position by the prime minister over land issues, and the use of troops to protect private interests.

“Svay Sitha’s excuses cannot clean the bad reputation of the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen over the provision of hundreds of thousands of state land as economic concessions to private companies and partisans, and letting land grabbing from people happen around the country, until there is criticism by local and international human rights groups.” Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1678-1679, 22-23.3.2009

Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Monday, 23 March 2009

Deum Ampil, Vol.3, #144, 22-23.3.2009

  • Samdech Dekchor: The Government Still Does Not Collect Land Taxes but Continues to Help Farmers
  • Samdech Euv [the King Father] Thanks Samdech Dekchor Hun Sen Who Provided Him Justice [Mr. Hun Sen recently expressed his support for the Sangkum Reastr Niyum regime led by Samdech Euv]
  • The Asian Human Rights Commission Asks the Government to Strengthen Its Efforts to Solve Land Problems
  • The Prime Minister Asks the Opposition Party to Look at Its Own Development

Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #370, 22-24.3.2009

  • UNDP Still Freezes Funds for the Khmer Rouge Tribunal

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #1904, 22-23.3.2009

  • In 2009, 400,000 Vietnamese People Lost Their Employment
  • The Minister of Information [Mr. Khieu Kanharith] Encourages Fellow Officials to Improve Their Information Technology Abilities

Koh Santepheap, Vol.42, #6609, 23.3.2009

  • In Phnom Penh in 2008 There Were 4,798 Weddings, 12,673 Births, and 2,030 Deaths [the population of the city was 1,325,681]

Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.16, #1718, 23.3.2009

  • Armed Forces Shoot at Citizens, Killing One and Injuring More Than Ten in Chi Kraeng District in Siem Reap [more than 50 citizens are arrested. – An official of the Ministry of Defense, Mr. Sinh Samut, who was asked by citizens to help intervene the case, said that on 22 March 2009, forces, such as the military police of Siem Reap, went to displace citizens who are doing rice farming on 475 hectares of land, in order to grab their land for merchants, and he added that a district governor had sold the land secretly to merchants who bribed the authorities to provide them land]
  • The Cambodian Side of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal [with more than 250 staff members] Is Satisfied with a US$200,000 Donation by the Japanese Government

Rasmei Kampuchea, Vol.17, #4852, 22-23.3.2009

  • The Sixth International Circus Festival Is Celebrated in Phnom Penh and Battambang
  • The Thai Prime Minister and [five] Ministers Pass a Vote of Confidence

Sereypheap Thmey, Vol.16, #1678-1679, 22-23.3.2009

  • BBC Asks Hun Sen Government about the Provision of Land to Companies using the Development Concession Image
  • World Bank Warns They Might Withdraw a US$18 Million Loan, if Developments of the Government Affects the Citizens’ Benefits

Have a look at the last editorial – you can access it directly from the main page of the Mirror.

And please recommend us also to your colleagues and friends.

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