Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday decried the rise of land grabbing in Cambodia at a ceremony to open a government program for the urban poor in Meanchey district.
“Many people move into Phnom Penh to get work because they are too poor in the countryside,” the premier said.
Hun Sen pledged that a long-awaited land law that now rests with his cabinet, the Council of Ministers, will soon be sent to the National Assembly. Then it will be more difficult for the rich to take the land of the poor.
He did not, however, respond to ongoing criticism by some villagers who claim their land was stolen by powerful members of Hun Sen’s own party.
Instead, Hun Sen said the municipal government has funded the Meanchey program and the government will provide an additional 10 hectares of land outside the city.
He stressed that in Cambodia’s new era of peace, rural dwellers should try to stay in the country and develop Cambodia’s agriculture sector instead of seeking a limited number of jobs at “companies and institutes” in the city.
Former squatter Men Chan Nan is helping lead the development in the Meanchey community in west Phnom Penh, where 129 families will be relocated from the city.
“All of us from different locations came here [to Phnom Penh] after the civil war ended. We settled…along the roadside because we could not find a proper place to live,” Men Chan Nan said.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said roughly one quarter of the city’s residents often live as squatters.