A tranche of government documents released this week shows hundreds of hectares of state-land plots privatized for connected individuals and companies across the country.
Twelve volumes of the royal gazette were published on Wednesday, a compilation of government orders and decisions dating from the end of last year. Around 100 volumes are released every year, with a delay of a few months between the decisions and publication.
The latest batch of documents contain at least eight state-land privatization orders. The largest plot is compensation for Koh Kong residents in dispute with the controversial Union Development Group, a massive, 36,000-hectare coastal Chinese-owned project accused of forced evictions. Some 1,154 hectares of Botum Sakor National Park was reclassified in order to be handed to an unspecified number of residents.
Around 600 hectares of other state-owned areas — lakes, forests, mountains, a port and a former economic concession — were also privatized around the country.
Hun Seng Ny, a sister of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and oknha Lanh Pheara received 20 hectares of Phnom Penh’s Boeng Tamok lake.
Canadia Bank got 10 hectares in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district, while Premier Land, a company owned by ruling-party senator Ly Yong Phat’s daughter and son-in-law, received 130 hectares from the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in a sale for an undisclosed price, the documents say.
Four other land grants were: 113 hectares to Fuhai Investment in Prey Nob; 5 hectares of Boeng Tamok to an individual, Ros Pri Bou; 49 hectares of a former economic land concession in Mondulkiri to another individual, Mey Keomorokot; and 280 hectares of mountain land in Kampong Chhnang to the military to install a radar station.
In Stung Treng, 65 hectares of a 99 hectare forest cover area was given to 196 families.
All the decrees were signed by Hun Sen.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not have information about specific land allocations, including to Hun Sen’s sister Seng Ny and tycoons.
“I have no idea whether it is cutting the land for them or selling it to them or another thing — I do not know, frankly speaking,” Siphan said.
In Preah Sihanouk, land grants were typically exchanged with private individuals and companies to help fund infrastructure development, he said.
Siphan referred questions about Boeng Tamok land to Phnom Penh City Hall and the Land Ministry, but neither municipal governor Kuong Sreng nor Land Minister Chea Sophara could be reached for comment on Friday.
A woman who answered a phone number for Canadia Group chairman Pung Kheav Se said the bank gained the plot because it belonged to a “long-term client” who had borrowed money but had breached mortgage conditions.
“It was not given, and brother should not be confused about this. There is a proper document that it was mortgaged with Canadia,” said the woman, who declined to give her name and would only say she was an “official.”
A reporter calling the bank was passed around multiple representatives before being told it had no information about land.
VOD could not reach the owners of the Premier Land, Ly Yong Phat’s daughter Ly Arporn and son-in-law Seng Nhak, through listed numbers, while a staff member who answered a call to the company said she would ask management about the land.
Koh Kong provincial governor Mithona Phouthorng said she was busy and declined to comment.
Updated on April 4 to note that the port was sold was to The Premier Land.