- Published on Saturday, 12 May 2012 12:43
Cambodia: Prime Minister Institutes Moratorium On Land Concessions
Responding to international pressure, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced Monday that he would temporarily suspend granting land to all domestic and foreign companies in Cambodia. The order also calls for a review of all existing concessions, canceling any agreement that involved the grabbing of villagers' land and illegal logging. The order states that the suspension was due to the "necessary and urgent need to guarantee equity and to strengthen the effectiveness of granting economic land concessions," reported the Phnom Penn Post .
The announcement comes as a major step forward for the campaign to Save Prey Lang Forest and local communities who have been fighting against logging and rubber plantations within their primary forest. However, many see the order as too little, too late, and demand that more action needs to be taken to create a permanent moratorium. As of Wednesday, the government had not yet outlined exactly how they plan to implement the Prime Minister's suspension and revision of existing land concessions. Provincial authorities have expressed their willingness to comply with orders, but have not received any instruction.
Lois Barber, of Earth Action responded to the news of the suspension: “The next important step would be to begin a process that will engage fully with all the villagers who live on and depend on the lands where the concessions have been granted, or where concessions are being considered. In full consultation with local people, sustainable development plans can be formulated that will provide for the short-term and long-term well being for all of Cambodia's resources and people. Such a process will demonstrate real leadership."
Concessions given during the current administration rose six-fold between 2010 and 2011, as part of a government initiative to grow the production of export-quality rubber within Cambodia. Many of these concessions are within protected wilderness areas, including Prey Lang forest. Some believe that the current suspension is a ploy to buy time until the coming election.
The decision comes after an outspoken activist against logging in Prey Lang was killed by government security forces last month. An investigation of Chut Wutty’s death has implicated logging company TimberGreen, whom Wutty had recently been working to expose for storing and exporting illegally cut wood.
The death of Wutty, while accompanied by two journalists on an investigation into the logging concessions, has drawn international scrutiny and from major news, including the New York Times , the Guardian, The Economist , which perhaps has led in part to the government’s ruling in favor of the anti-logging activist movement centered in Prey Lang.
Wildlife Alliance CEO Suwanna Gauntlett said coverage has undermined confidence in public security, damaged Cambodia’s reputation and would ultimately hurt an emerging eco-tourism sector. “Every single thing that happened on this crime scene is in violation of the civilian code…It is also an issue of Cambodia’s economic development, of Cambodia’s reputation, of security, public safety – this [crime] is absolutely unconscionable,” said Gauntlett as quoted in the Phnom Penn Post .
Source: Cultural Survival