WASHINGTON DC —
Facing ongoing unrest of evictees in the countryside, the government recently canceled 19 economic concession contracts with development companies.
But despite these and other efforts, there remains a lack of transparency in the system that makes it hard to monitor and maintain such initiatives, governance expert Ok Serei Sopheak told “Hello VOA” on Monday.
“Before granting a license on land economic concessions, we all have to bear in mind that the land belongs to all the people and their children, despite now being under government control,” he said. “Therefore, they have to cautiously manage it with people’s participation.”
Officials have defended land concessions in the past, saying some people have encroached on state land.
In a press conference earlier this month, Environment Minister Say Samal told reporters that in some cases, uninhabited land became occupied after it was surveyed and after a company had started to clear it following a concession.
The ministry has worked hard to ensure companies don’t encroach on residential areas, and the hope is that the concessions can benefit development companies and local people.
Ok Serei Sopheak, however, said the government needs to review its policies, particularly in granting 99-year leases, which should be closer to 40 years long.
Concessions along the border should not be allowed too long, he said.
“Otherwise, it will become a serious political issue that affects our international relations with neighboring countries,” he said.
Land disputes have affected hundreds of thousands of people, both rural and urban poor. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party lost 22 seats in the 2013 elections, despite its efforts to address the issue.
Say Samal said the new cancellations are an attempt to better address the issue. “We solved a lot of problems, and we hope to be able solve all the remaining issues.”