‘Burst’ of land disputes sees dozens of Cambodians charged: rights group

Cambodian authorities have charged nearly half as many villagers in land dispute cases in the first three months of this year as they did in all of 2013, a local rights group said Thursday, adding that most of the rows stemmed from government-granted land concessions. Following a “burst” of new land disputes, 48 people were charged for their alleged roles in land disputes in the first quarter of 2014 alone and 12 among them had been detained, compared to 100 people charged and 20 detained last year, Adhoc said in a new report. Speaking at a press conference in Phnom Penh, Adhoc director Thun Saray said that the majority of the disputes had arisen from land concessions and called on the government to take responsibility for resolving the crisis by ending the practice. … According to the Adhoc report, at least 770,000 people—about six percent of the population—have been negatively affected by encroachment on their land since 2000. Those affected by the disputes often face the loss of their homes or the forests they subsist on, as well as poor relocation packages. … Some 2 million hectares (4.94 million acres) have been granted as land concessions in Cambodia, mostly in Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Ratanakiri provinces, the report said. … Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan told RFA’s Khmer Service that the government had “reformed and reduced” land disputes cases, adding that Adhoc’s report “doesn’t reflect the [situation] throughout the country.” He said there are three main types of land conflict in Cambodia—one between villagers and companies, another between villagers and companies granted land concessions, and a third involving villagers who encroach on public land. “We are allowing all sides to participate in resolving the issues,” he said. “Those [disputes which involve] complicated issues, we will investigate in greater detail.” …

Radio Free Asia News Staff