May 19, 2017

STOP LAND GRAPPING IN CAMBODIA

Land grabbing worsens poverty in the rural areas where 8 out of 10 of the world's poorest live. At present, small farmers control only 1/4 of farmlands worldwide. Please share and support the campaign to stop land grabbing #NoLandNoLife.

Since early 1993, the Cambodian Government has conceded large tracks of land to private companies for investment in plantations and large-scale agriculture. Over the years, an increasing number of ELCs have been granted. These concessions have adversely affected the human rights and livelihoods of Cambodia’s rural communities. Several reports along the years have found that concessions had been detrimental to the livelihoods of rural communities, who had drawn little benefit from these concessions and had no effective remedy or recourse when their rights were infringed or violated. However, economic land concessions (ELCs) have continued to be seen as a vehicle for economic development in Cambodia, although their economic benefit to the country and its people is not evident.

In May 2012, the Government issued Directive 001 which established a moratorium on the issuance of new concessions and ordered authorities to scrutinize existing ones[1]. As a result, in August 2014, the Government published a Decision to Create an Inter-Ministerial Commission to Inspect, Demarcate and Assess 230 Economic Land Concessions, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, H.E Bin Chhin.  In February 2016, the Prime Minister declared an end to the government’s review of Cambodia’s ELCs, pledging that nearly 1 million hectares of the re-appropriated property would be handed over to poor families[2]. However, it remains unclear which State institution is in charge of the excised land from ELCs and precise information about the excised land in each ELC (geospatial coordinates) is not easily available. Meanwhile, the government has publicly announced that the term of all ELCs will be reduced to 50 years.

As previously mentioned, in February 2016, the Inter-Ministerial Commission to Inspect, Demarcate and Assess Economic Land Concessions concluded its review on ELCs finalized its review of all ELCs. According to media reports, a total of 230 land concession projects were reviewed by the commission. 117 of these ELCs (1,181,522 hectares) were under the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and 113 ELCs and other concessions (646,296.75 hectares) under the responsibility of the Ministry of Environment (MoE). The Commission was since dissolved. No public report was issued on its work.  Otherwise, Open Development Cambodia (ODC) found that, out of the 257 ELCs recorded, as of January 2017:

  • 32 ELCs had been revoked
  • 134 ELCs had no evidence of adjustment
  • 4 ELCs had been downsized after being revoked
  • 87 ELCs (established between June 2003 and July 2016) had been downsized (the most recent downsizing being Lan Feng (Cambodia) International Company Ltd.)

Land issues, and the solution of government on it were bias to powerful persons, wealthy peoples, and private companies which received land concessions for agro-industrial plantation and/or where they submitted the request a huge amount of land to the government for granting them to invest the land for many years.    Since 2012 till now, CCFC has been operating its projects with farmers and communities in many provinces such as Preah Sihanouk, Kandal, Kampot, Svay Rieng, Kampong Speu, Prey Veng, and Traung Khmum, which consist of 23 land communities, with a total area of ​​11,985 hectares of which are victims of 5,952 families whose have land disputes with the powerful government officials, traders, private companies get concessions. Those land conflicts have taken almost ten years, still does not have a solution appropriate to the population victim acceptable yet. Factors of land disputes mostly caused by a lack of political will, real expulsions of the relevant authorities and the government in the use of mechanisms by making decisions with transparency, accountability, equality, research and investigation to seek the solutions, so that the process of governance and democratic processes weaken too. While it has fostered an atmosphere of a new practice corruption level between the relevant authorities, traders, and commercial companies, refining of land resources and natural resources systematically, and it is where they are human rights violations seriously, and the place of creating a culture of impunity to those violating human rights in the country. Moreover, disputes between local communities and private companies or wealthy powerful seeking solution through discussion with having little chance, organized by civil society organizations, local authorities and community stakeholders through notice. While the problems have not been resolved for many years, the local communities are difficult accesses to their livelihood. This cause is force them to leave their home by remaining most of women, elders and children at home with have no job or hardly. According CCFC’s project ended evaluation in 2016, all youth who represents about 20 to 30% of the total population in village, has now been working either as factory workers or within other service sectors, and leave 80% of elder people with no much work to do at home.  With this problem, also they use their rights (performed advocacy) via using many means such as file complaints, petitions, peaceful demonstration, protest, and rally in front of public institutions in order to seek the solutions. Reversely, responding to the community movement, the authorities, private companies, or adversary parties have used the court system where they are not impartial organs to intimidate and arrest community activists.  Since 2006, the community activists have been threatened to arrest, detain or charge with criminal offences without having appropriate reason, which causing the activists worry their safety. The land grabbers also filed encounter criminal complaint against activists or active members of communities, the court always favored to the powerful persons even if they do not enough evidences or basic accusation, the court accused or issued immediately warrant arrest or detain against activists. Some cases, the charges were coming from the presumption of the community violation of other ownership even such land do not know who are belong to it. Generally, CCFC’s target area the victims have not been respected their rights, and they also have limited capacity to understand their fundamental rights such civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights.

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