Farmers Petition to Change Agricultural Draft Law

About 200 farmers protested in front of the Ministry of Agriculture on Friday and submitted a petition requesting changes to a draft law on the management of agricultural land, which rights groups have said could effectively legalize land grabs from poor farmers. The government says the law will allow them to ensure that farmland produces its maximum yield. However, local rights group Licadho said in a July 2012 report that the law could actually be used to legalize land grabs, as it allows the government to demarcate land for so-called “agricultural development areas.” … The petition submitted Friday asked the ministry to consider several revisions to the draft law, including abolishing the criminal penalties and adding an article stating that farmers cannot be forced to take part in the creation of an “agricultural development area” against their will. … “Those group demonstrators don’t understand- we have created the draft law to protect the farmers’ interests and the natural resources of Cambodia,” [general department of agriculture director-general] Mr. [Hean] Vanhorn said.