October 27, 2018

Land resolution issues raised during workshop

Representatives of nearly 50 communities across nine provinces and the capital yesterday during a workshop expressed disappointment over the government’s handling of land disputes.

The Land Issues and Community Advocacy workshop, held in Phnom Penh, was organised by the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, and the Sahmakum Teang Tnaut and Punlok Khmer organisations in order to share experiences in solving land disputes and the impact they have on communities.

Yous Sophorn, whose community in Svay Rieng province has been embroiled in a land dispute with the Water Resources Ministry, said 120 families have been affected ever since the ministry in 2009 began building a reservoir without compensating residents.

Ms Sophorn said multiple petitions were submitted to various local and national authorities for intervention.

“We have no land for farming, people lack food to eat and they have no money,” she said. “In the past, we were able to grow rice and make a profit, but now we do not have enough to eat.”

“We would like to request Prime Minister Hun Sen to help expedite a resolution,” Ms Sophorn added. “Please help the people who are poor and in need in this community.”

Sing Seth, a representative of a Kuoy indigenous community in Preah Vihear province, said families in the community have been locked in land disputes with the Lan Feng and Rui Feng companies since 2012.

Ms Seth said authorities claimed that the disputes were resolved, but noted that the companies continue to clear farmland.

“The government, please measure and register our collective land as soon as possible,” she said. “Please help us to stop all the land clearing activities by the Chinese companies.”

During the workshop, other community representatives took the stage to appeal to the government to resolve their respective land disputes. Representatives who spoke noted that some communities have locked in disputes for more than a decade.

Theng Savoeun, president of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, said more than 20,000 families have been affected due to three major factors: Companies being granted Economic Land Concessions by the government, an increase in prices of land, and conspiracy between local officials to resell confiscated land.

“We want the government, relevant institutions, civil society organisations and communities to work together to solve land issues,” Mr Savoeun said. “There has to be good governance, transparency and the will to improve the livelihoods of people.”

Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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