Council of Ministers abrogates Kampong Speu land swap deal

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The government has decided to abrogate a land swap deal between the Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Touch Sarin Development Co Ltd. Photo supplied

The government, through the Council of Ministers, has decided to abrogate a land swap deal between the Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Touch Sarin Development Co Ltd.

In the initial agreement, ownership titles for 10ha were to be given to Touch Sarin Development Co Ltd in exchange for a new building in Chbar Mon town’s Chbar Mon commune in Kampong Speu province.

Relevant parties declined to comment on the matter while civil society urged an investigation into officials involved in the land exchange deal.

The notice dated October 17 and signed by Hing Thoraksy, standby secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said a previous letter by the council dated June 26, shall be abrogated.

The letter which was obtained by The Post said: “With the above subject and reference, the Council of Ministers would like to inform His Excellency [Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon] that the Royal Government decides to abrogate letter number 896 dated June 26, 2019, of the Council of Ministers.”

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries spokesman Srey Vuthy could not be reached for comment.

Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Chheang Tola could not be contacted for comment either. But he wrote a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on July 29.

His letter said the Samrong Tong forestry administration land located in Chbar Mon Commune, Chbar Mon town did not have a proper office building for civil servants.

Additionally, the small rattan forest located in Prey Phdao village, in Samrong Tong district’s Trapaing Kong commune, is vacant.

He said Touch Sarin Development Co Ltd requested principle for the exchange and a transfer of ownership before the development in exchange for constructing a Kampong Speu forestry administration building.

The initial construction plan includes an accommodation building, a warehouse for keeping confiscated materials, a car park, seeding place and utility system, and other equipment for performing work.

The letter said: “For the company’s request for the exchange, Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has no objection. In this regard, H.E. Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries please kindly review and decide in principle.”

Meanwhile, the earlier notice letter of the Council of Ministers regarding the land swap request dated June 26, which was obtained by The Post last week, requested three ministers to allow on-site development in principle.

They were the Minister of Economy and Finance, the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, and the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

The notice proposed to use two land plots, each measuring 10ha and 3,189sqm, and exchange them with Touch Sarin Development Co Ltd for the construction of the Kampong Speu forestry administration building.

The two neighbouring land plots are located in Chbar Mon commune’s Chamkar Doung village, in Kampong Speu province’s Chbar Mon town.

On the other hand, the land where the forestry administration building was supposed to be constructed measures 12ha.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang said that he had no comments over the issue as he was unaware of the land swap deal but will follow the decision of the Council of Ministers.

He said: “We should keep these lands first. Don’t develop anything controversial because the Council of Ministers wants to make officials of Kampong Speu Provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries calm as some of them are happy but others are not.

“So it is difficult if we do something without a unanimous agreement.”

Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organisation director Chea Hean applauded the decision of the Council of Ministers, saying state property should be kept for development by the state.

Hean urged officials to investigate corrupt officials who conspired in this land exchange deal to bring them to court and face the rule of law. Also, he would submit a letter to the Anti-Corruption Unit, urging them to investigate the case.