The new National Land Dispute Authority agreed on Monday to nationally televise all their hearings on land dispute cases, deputy committee chairman and Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Eng Chhay Eang said Tuesday.
During a meeting presided over by Cabinet Minister Sok An at the Council of Ministers, the committee agreed to register all complaints in a computer and classify cases by size and complexity to determine which ones warrant a hearing, he said.
“The committee also agreed that every hearing will be broadcast on TVK,” he said in reference to the state-run television network.
The authority will request that the National Assembly amend relevant laws to allow the committee to resolve disputes instead of the courts. Decisions, however, could be appealed to the Appeals Court, Eng Chhay Eang said. He added that the committee is already cataloguing complaints and he hopes to be able to begin hearing cases next month.
Independent media trainer Moeun Chhean Nariddh said that although genuine use of broadcast media to air common people’s grievances would be a positive step, he worried that it might be engineered to give a government-positive spin. “They may do some scapegoat[ing] where small officials could be targeted,” he said. “It could still be a show.”
Committee for Free and Fair Elections Director Koul Panha said that whether or not the hearings are televised, political biases would slant the authority’s judgment.
“It is not neutral. This is a political committee,” he said, adding that party members cannot be impartial when judging land dispute cases, especially since so many government officials have been involved in controversial land deals.
Right groups Licadho, Adhoc and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights declined an offer to join the authority last month because they feared involvement could compromise their ability to act as independent monitors.
(Additional reporting by Ethan Plaut)