Source: Khmer Time | Wed, 11 May 2016, by Taing Vida
Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that he will appoint a government official to answer questions in the National Assembly about economic land concessions (ELC) allegedly granted to members of the Vietnamese military in Rattanakiri province.
The move is in response to a proposal by opposition member Um Sam An, who is now detained in Prey Sar prison on incitement charges over allegations he made last year that the government voluntarily ceded land to the Vietnamese military.
Mr. Hun Sen said questions posed by Mr. Sam An about the allegedly Vietnamese-controlled ELC would be answered on a specified date when the imprisoned politician is present at the National Assembly.
In March, Mr. Sam An sent a letter to the prime minister demanding an explanation of media reports that claimed the Vietnamese military had received 40,000 hectares of land as a secret ELC in Rattanakiri province, some 600 kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh.
The reports said three ELCs were granted to four industrial companies controlled by the Vietnamese military’s Unit 15, which is stationed near the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Vietnam’s Yalai province. Mr. Sam An alleged that government documents confirmed that 39,584 hectares of land is under the control of Unit 15.
Mr. Sam An asked in his letter why the Vietnamese Military was granted the ELCs in Rattanakiri province, whether Vietnamese troops were stationed in the ELC and whether the government has any plans to revoke the ELC if it is indeed controlled by Unit 15.
According to the prime minister’s reply, dated March 17 and obtained by Khmer Times yesterday, an appointed government official will answer the questions on a date when Mr. Sam An is present at the National Assembly.
Mr. Sam An’s assistant, Mum Machiko, said he had received the prime minister’s letter last week and relayed its contents to Mr. Sam An on Tuesday in Prey Sar.
“Um Sam An still demands Prime Minister Hun Sen answer himself [at the National Assembly] rather than appointing a government official because he [Hun Sen] is highly responsible in this case,” he said.
Mr. Machiko said Mr. Sam An’s lawyer is now filing a bail request to the Appeal Court as they wait for Mr. Sam An’s administrative punishment, which banned him for 15 National Assembly meetings – he has already sat out nine.
Rattanakiri provincial governor Thong Savon declined to comment yesterday, saying he was busy.
Chhay Thy, the Rattanakiri coordinator for rights group Adhoc, reported in early 2012 that the government granted 40,000 hectares for an ELC in the province to four Khmer-owned companies. Because the ELC cut into community-owned land, leading to a series of demonstrations, the Khmer-owned companies transferred their ownership to a representative of the Vietnamese military, Mr. Thy said.
“Under the control of the Vietnamese owner, the 40,000 hectares were used to plant rubber trees, while some parts of the land are disputed by community members,” Mr. Thy said.