Dozens of Cambodians charged in land dispute: activist

This photo taken on Dec 6, 2023 shows a general view of the site of an economic land concession (ELCs) in Preah Vihear province. - AFP
AFP | 13 March 2024

Dozens of Cambodians charged in land dispute: activist

PHNOM PENH: A Cambodian court has charged 29 people with illegally occupying state land following an incident in which authorities fired live rounds in a crackdown on a longstanding land dispute, a rights activist said Wednesday (March 13).

The villagers were arrested last week when police, gendarmes and forestry officials moved to evict people from the land in northwestern Preah Vihear province, Am Sam Ath, operations director of rights group Licadho, told AFP.

The 29 people, including 12 women, were charged by a court with clearing forest land and enclosing it to claim for ownership, he said.

Twenty-five were sent to pre-trial detention while four were released on bail. They face between one and five years in jail if found guilty.

Court and local officials could not be reached immediately for comment.

"Land disputes remain an issue of concern," Am Sam Ath said, urging the government to speed up in the process to resolve the conflicts.

The plot of land where the incident took place was granted to a private company for economic land concessions (ELC) in 2011, according to Licadho.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by ELCs -- land grants to businesses that experts say have driven deforestation and dispossession.

Cambodia formalised ELCs in 2001 with legislation allowing recipients to clear land for "industrial agricultural exploitation".

Due to growing land conflicts and facing a risk of a "farmers' revolution", Hun Sen, prime minister at the time, announced the ELC moratorium in 2012.

In a separate incident, 250 police officers were deployed to crack down on locals illegally clearing forests to assert land ownership in the Cardamom Mountains in Pursat province, according to the provincial administration.

Cambodia's land records were largely destroyed by the communist Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s and after its fall people often settled without legal title.
  •   AFP
  • 13 Mar 2024
  • Who's involved?

    Whos Involved?


    Special content


    Latest posts