ADB Funds Project To Resolve Land Disputes

The Asian Development Bank is funding a project to help re­­solve the uncertainty, disputes and chaos in land rights and own­er­ship that are plaguing the country, bank officials said Thursday.

The two-year project is supported by an ADB grant of nearly $600,000, with the Cambodian government contributing training and office facilities, staff and various services. The project will provide the government with legal assistance to draft a half dozen sub-decrees required to implement the land law.

The draft of the new law, approved by the National As­sembly earlier this month, will soon be reviewed by the Senate. It states general principles, such as the concept of social concession to give land to the needy, but provides few specifics.

Social concession is the pro­cess of acquiring land by occupying it for five years, a practice that has led to confusion and land grab­bing, leaving thousands of farmers landless. Instead, the “needy” will get land. But the law’ does not de­fine who the “needy” are or what land will be distributed. The ADB project will in­clude training for judges, lawyers and NGOs. Eveline Fischer, ADB senior counsel, said the law is so abstract that it’s hard for judges and lawyers to grasp and im­plement it. Training will help ensure that the law is applied “the right way,” she said, and create an environment that will inspire confidence in the legal pro­cess

The project will fund a public education campaign “to inform people on what their rights are under the new law,” said Urooj Malik, ADB resident representative in Cambodia.

The government will receive land reform help from a project funded by the World Bank in cooperation with Germany and Finland. Scheduled to start next year, it will include a registration system for the country’s 8 million parcels of land.


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