The government has announced a new review of economic land concessions, shortening the period of some from 99 years to 50, but watchdog groups say strict law enforcement of other legislation is also needed.
Land concessions are leases of public land to private enterprises, such as rubber plantations, meant to boost Cambodia’s economic development. But they have over the years come to represent a major policy problem for Cambodia’s leaders, creating thousands of land disputes in the process and causing many people to become displaced.
The Ministry of Environment said Tuesday the new regulations would help the government better manage such concessions. “If we set 70 to 90 years, as before, we couldn’t do anything on those concession areas before the contract ended,” said Srun Sarith, an adviser for the ministry.
Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said shortening the leases was a good step for concession management, but he said that to ensure the effectiveness of concessions, strict law enforcement must be combined with the needs of people in the area.
“There’s a lack of law enforcement and regular monitoring at the actual concession areas,” he said.
A balance between conservation and economic development is also important, he added.
The government is currently reviewing 113 development projects. Among them, 37 saw their contracts shortened to 50 years and 23 were canceled. Twenty are still awaiting follow-ups.