Land disputes triple in Cambodia in 2014: rights group

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World Bulletin | 19 February 2015

Land disputes triple in Cambodia in 2014: rights group

The number of land conflicts in Cambodia has tripled over the past year, according to a rights group, despite government vows to grant more land titles and stem the tide of economic land concessions.

A statement released by Licadho on Thursday described the present land rights situation as grave, calling on the government to take immediate action.

“In 2014 alone, LICADHO registered 10,625 families, or an estimated 49,519 individuals, newly affected by land conflicts,” the organization said.

“This number, which is mostly confined to 13 provinces where LICADHO has field offices, represents more than three times the number of families documented in 2013 -- 3,475 -- as well as nearly twice the number recorded in 2012 -- 5,672.”

In 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced plans for a large-scale land-titling initiative to be carried out by student volunteers, as well as a moratorium on new land concessions.

But Licadho’s caseload shows that there was a “surge” in such concessions within the first quarter of 2014, also noting the shooting death of a teenage farmer during a clash with soldiers over a plot in the northern province of Preah Vihear last year.

It also said that there appears to be no sign that there will be any improvements in the country’s land rights disputes this year.

Naly Pilorge, Licadho’s director, condemned the government’s empty promise-making and said problems needed to be addressed “immediately.”

“The root causes of land conflicts have been well-documented: a corrupt and politically-obedient judicial system, the misuse of armed forces, including soldiers, as well as collusion between well-connected companies and authorities,” said Am Sam Ath, the group’s technical coordinator.

He described the aforementioned as a “toxic cocktail.”

Sar Sovann, a spokesman at the Ministry of Land Management, hung up when contacted Thursday by The Anadolu Agency.

However, Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan said the figures had been “fabricated and cheated” in order to further the NGO’s own interests, and referred to government figures showing around 600 disputes currently under review by various ministries.

“They said that the number involved with land grabbing or disputes increased, but I don’t believe that. I’m not positive on that one,” he added.

“That’s why I say it’s manipulated. Why? Because their purpose is different from the government -- we want to minimize as much as we can, because we are by the people, from the people and for the people.”
Original source: World Bulletin
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