Prime Minister Hun Sen granted the Justice Ministry permission to sell 140 hectares of Boeng Tamok lake and use the proceeds for infrastructure upgrades, according to a royal decree, with the new diktat coming weeks after the ministry was given land in the lake area.
The premier issued a letter on November 1, which was seen by VOD on Monday, granting the Justice Ministry’s request to sell the lake land and create a committee to oversee the process, which would include the Phnom Penh governor, city hall officials and the Justice and Finance ministries.
The ministry was granted 140 hectares by a subdecree signed on October 13, also seen by VOD on Monday.
Hun Sen in August had similarly granted permission to the Interior Ministry to sell 100 hectares of Tamok to cover renovation expenses.
The committee would be tasked with measuring and inspecting the 140 hectares, appraising the land’s value, and courting individuals, companies or other private sector actors who could purchase the full 140 hectares.
The profits from the sale would go straight to the ministry’s coffers, the letter said, but would need to be used toward improving its infrastructure.
Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin said the proceeds would be used to construct new court buildings and renovate old ones across the country, including an Appeal Court building and a record-keeping facility.
“Our infrastructure faces huge shortages, and most of our buildings are old and small buildings, and hearing rooms are also small, which does not meet with increasing caseloads,” he said.
When asked if the land sale would be enough to cover the expenses, he said he didn’t know, deferring to the newly-formed committee’s plans.
Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng could not be reached for comment.
Transparency International Cambodia director Pech Pisey said he can understand the government’s decision to reallocate the land to earn income in the face of budget shortfalls, but he called for officials to disclose information at every step of the process.
“We must release information for the public to know because people might have concerns about mismanagement of the money and loss of money,” he said.