Expropriation Law Set for Debate, NGO Critics Remain Concerned

The National Assembly will debate the draft law allowing the government to seize private land for public infrastructure projects within the next week, officials said yesterday.

According to a statement from the National Assembly’s Secretary-General Leng Penglong, debate on the draft expropriation law is scheduled to open on Thursday. How­ever, Assembly Vice President Ngoun Nhel said that discussions about border demarcation are likely to consume the entire Thursday session.

“The National Assembly will take the draft law to debate on Monday next week,” Mr Nhel said by telephone.

The law, approved at the Council of Ministers on Oct 9, promises to provide “fair and just compensation” for anyone who must lose their land to make way for “any construction and rehabilitation, and public physical infrastructure expansion project for the public and national interest and development of Cambodia,” according to the draft.

Housing rights activists have expressed hope that the expropriation law will prevent land-grabbing, but in a workshop on Dec 9, NGO re­presentatives said they were worried that vague definitions in the draft would leave the law open to serious abuse.

Mr Nhel said yesterday that lawmakers had received a list of 14 changes requested by housing rights NGOs, but he added that the As­sem­bly was unlikely to accept the majority of the suggestions. He explained that if lawmakers call for changing more than 10 points in a draft law, they are required to send the entire law back to the government for redrafting.

“If [the Assembly] follows the NGOs’ request to change 14 points, we would have to send the draft back to the government. This would be in opposition to the government’s principle, in which the government wants to speed up the process of the law,” Mr Nhel said, claiming that during the drafting procedure, ideas were collected from NGOs and civil society.

However, Bunn Rachana, a monitor for Housing Rights Task Force, said yesterday that she had no knowledge of any such consultation on the law.

“I have checked with all NGOs that work with housing rights, and no one received an invitation to this consultation,” Ms Rachana said.


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