Environment Minister Say Sam Al recently claimed that all land dispute cases in the country have been resolved, yet a report released by the Land Management Ministry on Tuesday shows a rise in complaints and a drop in resolutions last year.
Last year, the ministry received 757 land dispute cases, resolved 44 and began resolving another 115, says the report, which was released at the ministry’s annual meeting on Tuesday in Phnom Penh. Data for the previous year indicates the ministry and the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution jointly received 637 complaints and resolved 376.
The new report says the resolution authority separately resolved 235 cases for 1,271 families last year, but does not provide the total number of complaints the body received.
Earlier this month, Mr. Sam Al remarked after being questioned by the National Assembly’s environment commission that there were no outstanding land dispute cases. “After we created the committee to resolve land disputes, we have solved them all,” he said.
Sia Phearum, director of land rights NGO Housing Rights Task Force, said on Tuesday that the number of land disputes was on the rise as the development plans of wealthy businessmen and foreign corporations trumped human rights.
“It is a widespread issue in Cambodia because of increasing development…and the problem is human rights are not respected,” Mr. Phearum said, adding that the government was also too slow to keep up with the demands of complainants.
“But coming up to the elections next year, we might see some more disputes resolved,” he said. “They need to find their votes somewhere.”
At the ministry’s meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, head of the land dispute authority, encouraged hundreds of municipal and provincial land management officials to keep working hard to grant land titles to villagers and warned against accepting bribes in return.
“The land title, everyone must have it—they need it for farming, for building houses,” he said.
According to ministry figures, 4.45 million land titles have been granted since the government began issuing official land concessions under the Land Law in 2001, and 3,558 disputes out of a total of 7,529 have been resolved.
(Additional reporting by Hannah Hawkins)