Cambodia has 2.3 million hectares of land under concessions, a new report by the rights group Adhoc says.
The concessions, which would represent about 14.7 percent of Cambodia’s total land mass, were given to 225 national and international companies, the Adhoc report says.
Government officials rejected the findings, but such concessions to private companies have been at the heart of increased landlessness in recent years and present a nettling challenge for public officials.
“Economic land concessions help destroy Cambodia’s forests, prevent state revenue and leave villagers poor,” said Son Chhay, a lawmaker with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party.
Adhoc, which released the report Thursday, said the exact amount of land under concessions could be even more significant.
The report found forced evictions and land concessions that had not gone through proper government regulation. It found a number of irregularities in at least 123 concession grants, as well as 55 concessions that failed to show the proper names of companies involved. It also found concessions that touched on preserved forests and national parks.
Adhoc President Thun Saray said the concessions were of little benefit to the villagers in the areas they were granted and suggested the government look toward Malaysian and Thai policies that leave villagers to occupy agro-industrial plantations or whose products are purchased by companies outright.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan disputed the figures. He said the most recent data show an increase in land concessions from 200,000 hectares in 2008 to 750,000 hectares in 2011, especially in the northern and northeastern provinces. He said the economic development surrounding such concessions were a help to Cambodia’s economy.