Kem Sokha: PM To Free Land Dispute Prisoners

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and former party secretary-general Eng Chhay Eang will be a deputy president of the new National Land Dis­pute Authority, while 10 prominent NGOs have formally declined to participate in the body.

These decisions came out of a meeting between several NGOs, op­position officials and Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen on Wednesday morning to discuss land issues. Cambodian Center for Human Rights President Kem Sokha said that Hun Sen agreed during the meeting to re­lease all villagers jailed over land disputes and to reduce all concessions larger than 10,000 hec­tares. Kem Sokha added that Hun Sen ob­jected to a suggestion that the Na­tion­al Assembly vote on the granting of all economic land concessions.

Eng Chhay Eang said Deputy Prime Minister Sok An will head the authority, while he, Land Man­age­ment Minister Im Chhum Lim, Min­­ister of National Assembly and Senate Relations and Inspection Mem Sam An, government adviser Heng Vong Bunchhat and Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng, will be dep­uty presidents. Eng Chhay Eang, who resigned as opposition party secretary-general in Decem­ber because of a gambling problem, said he has kicked the habit and is fit to handle his new responsibilities.

“I can control myself,” he said. “We believe we can solve and re­duce most of the land disputes.”

The NGOs said they will not participate in the authority because they want to remain independent, Kem Sokha said. “We will form a work­ing group instead,” said Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cam­bodian Defenders Project. “The group will go along on investi­ga­tions, recommend cases for investigation and ad­vise the authority,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Erik Wasson)


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