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Investments on Islands in the Cambodian Sea Are Full of Secrets and Corruption as They Are Not Put Up for Public Bidding

By: The Mirror Posted: August-16-2010 in
The Mirror

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677

“A high ranking official of the Sam Rainsy Party demanded the government to clarify the investments by private companies on some islands in the Cambodian sea. People want to know which companies control those islands and the leasing prices, and for how long. A request was made after the Cambodian government handed over some islands to local and foreign companies for investment, but the investment opportunities were not put up to facilitate accurate and transparent public biddings.

“A Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian, Mr. Son Chhay, said that it is illegal that the government delivered these islands to private companies, and the income from these investments is not inserted into the national budget. The investment or concession arrangements for those islands are confidential and corrupt. Mr. Son Chhay, said, ‘Where will the income from the islands be taken? As a parliamentarian, we have to observe and monitor the national income, after the government had issued sub-decrees to hand those islands over to companies, but we have not seen any documents about the amount of income from these leasings and concessions.’

“Mr. Son Chhay added that islands in the sea have as high a potential for the Cambodian economy as the beaches near Kep, Koh Kong, and Sihanoukville, because they attract national and international tourists. However, the government does not put them up for public bidding; this also affects the environment, and the background of the companies is not known. He said, ‘We have received information that several Khmer islands have been handed over by the government to powerful people or to relatives of government officials, and they then leased some islands to some foreign companies, exploiting for themselves the interests of the Khmer people.’

“In his response, a Cambodian People’s Party parliamentarian and chairperson of the Commission of Economy, Finance Banking, and Audit, Mr. Cheam Yeap, acknowledged that the government did not put the investment on those islands for public auction, because the government does not have detailed plans, to show them to the clients for bidding. Since the government was not able to create detailed plans, putting them for public bidding is impossible. This recognition by such a high ranking official from the Cambodian People’s Party shows that the investment or leasing of the islands to some companies is mysterious and can be plagued by corruption.

“Mr. Son Chhay stressed that he requested the government in writing since 2006 to clarify investments and leasing of islands to some companies without transparent public bidding, but he has not received any response from the government. Now, he is collecting documents to be used as evidence about the impact and the corruption, in order to submit them to the government and ask for clarification again. The intention is to summon ministers or other government representatives to clarify these investment on some islands that are being developed – their shares were sold in Hong Kong – in order to know whether such activity is legal or not, and whether it conforms with basic procedures. If there is no clarification, it can be concluded that what was done before was the illegal sale of some islands of the country.

“In July 2010, the Ministry of Tourism cooperated with UNESCO towards the registration of some beaches of Cambodia among the world most beautiful beaches [Reference not clear, maybe the UNESCO Environment and development in coastal regions and in small islands program, concerned with 'environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, culturally respectful and economically viable development']. It is expected that there will be strong support from national and international tourism. Also, the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Thong Khon, said that after Cambodian beaches will have been noted, the Ministry of Tourism is trying to make some Cambodian beaches to be fully listed among the world’s most beautiful beaches during the nomination next year.

“Nevertheless, non-government officials watching the environment in Cambodia noticed that some companies taking charge of island developments do not study the effects on the environment. Like on Puos Island, while there is yet no result from the developments by a Russian company, there is mysterious information and it might be related to corruption. Obviously, the Puos Island development plan has not been provided any benefit to the nation, besides environmental deterioration and impacts on the living conditions of citizens who used to do fishing near the island.

“According to expert officials, there are about 40 islands in the Khmer sea with investment potential where some have already been developed, while some others are being developed by companies such as Rong Island, P’Oun Island, Bang Island, and Puos Island. Recently, the Cambodian government provided licenses to private companies to invest on four more islands in Koh Kong, such as Sameth, Putsa, Chhan, and Toteung islands. Among those companies, there are also Yuon [Vietnamese] companies, and the development periods are up to 90 years. This might lead of the loss of Cambodian territory, as the Cambodian government does not present investment contract documents for those companies.

“A non-government organization official in Kampot said that some years ago, a Yuon company, Try Pheap, developed Tonsay Island in Kep and evicted the Khmer citizens living there from that island. At present, that Yuon company has not continued its developments. After it obtained the license, it stopped its activities. Such a problem emerged, as previously the government did not conduct public biddings and did not set clear conditions publicly before offering a license to that private company. Therefore, from now on, the government must conduct public biddings before providing licenses to companies to develop and operate on islands in the Cambodian sea, in order to avoid secret and strongly corrupt practices as in the past.” Moneaksekar Khmer, Vol.17, #3957, 13.8.2010

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 677 - Friday, 13.8.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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