Controversial Land Dispute Resolution Team Has New Lineup

The controversial National Au­thority for Land Dispute Reso­lu­tion has new a leadership lineup following a subdecree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Oct 15.

Bin Chhin, CPP deputy prime minister, will become the authority’s president, taking the helm from Cabinet Minister Sok An, who presided over the body since its formation in February 2006.

Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim, former Minister of Cults and Religion Khun Haing and Minister of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection Som Kimsuor were named deputy presidents.

Also appointed as members of the authority were National Police Chief Hok Lundy, Military Police Commander Sao Sokha, RCAF deputy commanders Kun Kim and Meas Sophea, and RCAF Navy Chief Ung Samkhan.

Completing the 38-person authority, the sub-decree states, are the ministers of environment, agriculture, mines and energy, justice, and social affairs, alongside secretaries of state from the ministries of finance, defense, interior, water resources, and culture.

The sub-decree also assigned a further 16 officials to work for the authority’s secretariat.

The NALDR, however, has many critics.

“It doesn’t have the power to solve anything effectively,” the Sam Rainsy Party’s acting Secretary-General Ke Sovannroth said Tuesday.

“Its formation is just a picture. More villagers have become the victims and the numbers of land disputes have risen. They formed it just to make positions and make people think that they care,” she added.

The Cambodia Center for Hu­man Rights and rights groups Ad­hoc and Licadho also leveled criticism at the NALDR’s track record.

CCHR President Ouk Virak said police and military officials, who are represented on the authority, are, in particular, involved in land disputes.

“We have to strengthen the judiciary systems, not to form another institution,” he said.

Adhoc President Thun Saray said the resolution of land disputes required more than a new line up at the NALDR.

“The Royal government must have firm will,” Thun Saray said, “especially against the powerful officials in the government and the big companies.”

“If they don’t dare to do it, [the NALDR] is useless,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with Licadho, questioned the NALDR’s success rate, particularly when it came to solving cases involving the powerful.

“There are thousands of cases but they could solve only 10 to 20 cases. Especially the cases related to the rich and powerful people.”

NALDR President Bin Chhin could not be contacted for comment on Tuesday. Deputy President Som Kimsuor said that she was not yet aware of her new job, but she was ready for the task.

“It is very important work to solve the land disputes for villagers,” Som Kimsuor said before declining to comment further.

According to a NALDR progress report for the first half of 2007, the authority received 116 complaints, which were redistributed to ministries and provincial authorities for review. More recent reports could not be obtained Tuesday.

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that critics of the land dispute authority were wrong.

“They have respected the law, and have worked as mediator,” Cheam Yeap said of he authority.

“We just brought the disputes to the courts. We didn’t make a decision on who would win or lose,” he said, adding that the authority had also helped investigating judges by providing primary information about disputes.

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