After rights group Licadho released a statement Thursday saying that more than 10,000 Cambodian families were newly affected last year by land disputes in the 13 provinces where it has monitors—a three-fold increase from 2013—a government spokesman on Friday slammed the NGO’s report as “baseless and groundless.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan took to Facebook on Thursday evening to dispute the figures, saying the government’s National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution received only 1,766 land conflict complaints between January 1 and August 20 last year.
Mr. Siphan said in the post that the government had settled 336 of these cases, while another 156 cases were in the process of being resolved and 1,263 cases had been transferred to various ministries to work on.
Contacted by telephone Friday, Mr. Siphan accused Licadho of doctoring the figures.
“Licadho likes to manipulate [such things] for their projects, budget and funding…. They have not been transparent enough. This is how the number [has] become 10,000 people,” he said.
Licadho’s report, in fact, says that about 50,000 people were newly affected by land disputes last year.
Am Sam Ath, senior technical supervisor for Licadho, stood by the report on Friday.
“Before we release the figures, we conduct investigations thoroughly and the figures we found are very correct,” he said. “This report is released in the hopes that the government will take appropriate measures and to hasten work in resolving the land disputes.”
Mr. Siphan also said Licadho had paid people to join land rights protests in Phnom Penh, but said such protests have subsided.
“You don’t see people on the streets anymore,” he said. “Licadho hired protesters to come and protest in Cambodia.”
Ee Sarom, executive director of housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, demurred.
“In Phnom Penh, [land rights] protests [still] happen at least one time per week, sometimes every three days,” he said.