2008 Sees Rise in Rape-Murders and Land Disputes, Report Says

Local rights group Adhoc released its annual report for 2008 on Tuesday that shows a sharp increase in the number of land disputes between villagers and military officials.

The report also notes a decrease in instances of rape, but said that rapes in 2008 appeared to be more violent with a much greater proportion of victims being killed by their assailants.

According to the report, eight villagers were killed during forcible evictions in 2008, six more than were killed the previous year. A total of 10,526 poor families were removed from their homes in 25 instances of forced eviction without adequate compensation, the report states.

Among the 306 reported cases of land disputes in 2008, 125 were between villagers and RCAF officials, the report said. These 125 instances represent three times the number of disputes involving military officials in 2007, according to Adhoc.

The second-largest grouping of land dispute parties involves the Mini­stry of Agriculture, according to Ad­hoc, with 73 disputes involving agriculture officials and another 10 involving forestry department officials.

Of the remaining land disputes, 23 involved parties that were police officials, 13 involved court officials and seven involved military police officials, the report states.

By contrast, land disputes involving private companies were of a much smaller number, ac­cording to the report, with 55 disputes related to a private firm or wealthy businessperson.

Adhoc also noted that in 2008, the government gave 225,499 hectares of land, under concession agreements, to private companies, while only providing 409 hectares to poor families.

Defense Minister Tea Banh hung up on a reporter Tuesday, while na­tional military police commander and RCAF Deputy Commander in Chief Sao Sokha said he was in France and could not talk.

Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said he was not surprised by Adhoc’s allegations regarding law enforcement officers.

“Normally, a human rights NGO would not talk good about authorities,” he said. “We never expect that they would praise us.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said Tuesday that Prime Minister Hun Sen was aware of the allegations and has already “gradually taken measures” against officials involved in land disputes.

But, Cheam Yeap said, “nothing is perfect” and Hun Sen “could not look at all corners.”

Cheam Yeap added that Hun Sen had also shown the government’s willingness to tackle land issues by forming the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes.

In their report, Adhoc stated that there were 418 reported rapes in 2008, and among those, 280 of the victims—or nearly 67 percent—were younger than 18.

According to Adhoc, the total number of reported rapes was down significantly compared to 2007, while there were 395 reported rapes involving minors, but the instances of rape reported in 2008 “were more brutal and severe.”

There were 34 in­stances in 2008 where the rape victim was also murdered, more than double the 16 cases reported the previous year. Adhoc also found that in 280 reported instances, the victims had been tortured before being raped.

Besides placing blame on widespread viewing of pornographic films, Adhoc said that police had encouraged such behavior by not being able or willing to arrest offenders and send them to the courts to be prosecuted.

“Authorities forced victims to ac­cept compensations to withdraw the complaints and sign a contract ac­cepting the compensation,” the re­port said.

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