Cambodia Sells Off Virgin Rainforest to Rich Chinese Investors

A disturbing story appeared in Reuters last week:

China’s economic boom over the past 20 years has raised the standard of living for many, but as in the US, it’s benefited the very rich the most.

Chinese investors, flush with money, are razing a pristine rainforest for a gambling casino.

Cambodia’s government sold 130 square miles of untouched Botum Sakor – home to tigers, elephants and other endangered animals – to a Chinese real estate company, Tianjin Union Development Group.

It’s transforming the vast area to a city-sized gambling resort for "extravagant feasting and revelry," say its website. A 40 mile highway that cuts right through the forest is almost complete.

Last year, the Cambodian government sold 2946 square miles of land concessions to wealthy Chinese investors – most of it in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries – according to research by the respected Cambodia Human Rights and Development Organization.

People who have lived on those lands for generations are being moved, and they’re beginning to protest.

"Such protests could ratchet up anti-Chinese sentiment in Cambodia, where China is both the largest foreign investor and source of foreign aid. That aid, often in the form of no-strings-attached infrastructure projects, has made Hun Sen less reliant on Western donors, who generally demand greater transparency and respect for human rights," says Reuters.

Foreign conservation groups have been afraid to fight back in fear of being kicked out.

So much money is coming in from the Chinese that non-profits have little leverage. Although land-grabbing, illegal logging and forced evictions have long been common, by granting land concessions, the government has effectively legalized these practices in the country’s last remaining wilderness, say activists.

The group that’s building the casino has much bigger plans that include a road network, international airport, a port for large cruise ships, two reservoirs, condominiums, hotels, hospitals, and golf courses.

The government’s contract with Union Group is "shocking," says Mathieu Pellerin, a researcher with the Cambodian human rights group Licadho. "Cambodia is giving away 36,000 hectares to a foreign entity with little if any oversight or obvious benefit to the people."

Adding even more insult, Union Group pays no fees for the first decade of its lease.

Recently, Myanmar cancelled a $3.6 billion Chinese dam project because of widespread protests, and a proposed pipeline that would move oil and gas to China could meet the same fate.

China gave $1.19 billion in aid to Cambodia last year, about 10 times that of the US. Although China gives the aid without strings attached, its companies are being rewarded with non-transparent "access to mineral and resource wealth," a US diplomat told Reuters.

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Comments on “Cambodia Sells Off Virgin Rainforest to Rich Chinese Investors”

  1. kd

    hun sen government will sell off everything to China in the name of development. money will just all go to hun sen’s pocket and his cpp allies. Cambodia continues to owe china more and more.

  2. blue

    What sad news. Even though Cambodia is in much of need of a strong economy, build thins Casino are only helping the rich Chinese. Chinese people are very greedy, money is everything to them. Im sure they couldn’t care less about Cambodias forest.

  3. Sidney

    Some people are so ignorant and anti-business. I was born in Cambodia and is educated in US. I am sorry that those wild animals will lose their homes. But this forest has provided nothing for poor Cambodian people. Why not make it into an economic zone which will provide jobs to Cambodian people. Let’s put tax on businesses and tourists and use the money to fund social programs and schools. Only the rich westerners care about this wild life sanctuary because their countries have already been industrialized.

  4. Rona Fried

    I tire of people who say that those of us who care about the fate of the world’s wildlife and wild places don’t care about people and are anti-business. Just about every single wild animal is critically endangered around the world because humans take up every square inch of it. The planet is NOT just about humans. One of the things Americans can be proud of is the land we’ve set aside for nature, although more of that is threatened now because industry wants to do natural gas, shale oil drilling everywhere it can.

  5. HollyWoodyWildox

    our most precious wild ox, and many other wild lives of our beloved Mother_Land Cambodia, that have shared the land for million of year before Khmer peoples had not event set foot on the land yet. Now the rain forest their only home is going to be gone from Cambodia!! How sad, and how depressed it is to know that Cambodia most precious crown jewel, and the only lives support system of Cambodian peoples. May I ask one question Mr. Prime minister Hun Sen? Can you have the heart to save our rain forest, and our wild lives? If you can, I warranty that your name would be written in stone as a hero! I love to tell you what consequences will take place, if all our rain forest be gone? I am sure you know? It would be a huge disaster to hit Mother-Land Cambodia!! Flood,
    soil erosion, drought of unimaginable proportion .

    All Cambodian middle classes, low classes will be staving to death!! So you think a few Cambodian riches still can be the owner of Cambodia? Right now majority of Cambodian peoples are mentally, and physically out of shape: It is scary to think of this? But it is almost to late, almost late is much better than late? The whole nation must come together, and think very hard to find new resolution to solve the problem of this nation”Cambodia” At least starting with saving
    our rain forest, fish, and wild lives? These three items are our lives support natural resources: We must protect them with all cost:

  6. khmerPoorFarmers

    Who ever is running Cambodia at this moment, and time, or every members of ASIAN!! Let just think that logically Cambodia has played a crucial role in South East Asia. Well one thing it has been a most important, and a gigantic fish basket of all South East Asian nations “The great lake of Tonlesab” Help saving the lake, so Cambodia will continue to feed the whole Asia with her fish?


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