The number of human rights violations detected by local rights group Licadho rose by 70 percent in 2008, according to a report recently released by the organization.
The largest number of cases involved land disputes, affecting a total of 14,650 families, an increase of 42 percent compared to 2007, according to the report.
“Landlessness in Cambodia is synonymous with dire poverty, urban migration, the separation and destruction of families and communities and, in the most severe instances, malnutrition, starvation and death,” the report said.
At least 50 people were arrested and detained for their involvement in land disputes last year, and 15 remain in prison today, said Chheng Sophors, a Licadho investigator.
So far this year, police have arrested nine people involved in land disputes.
“Basically, we want to see the court system play their role for both parties involved in a land dispute, because we have noticed that court officials always work in favor of one party, not in favor of poor villagers,” Chheng Sophors said.
Licadho’s monitoring office investigated 379 new cases of human rights abuses in 2008 and found 526 violations, affecting a total of 16,725 people. Of the cases investigated, 114 were related to land disputes, 38 to killings, 54 to physical assault, 30 to threats and harassment, 23 to illegal arrests and detentions, and the remainder to a variety of other violations.
Senior Minister Om Yentieng, chairman of the government’s human rights committee, said he was too busy to comment on human rights violations in Cambodia.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of the Interior Nuth Sa An, who is also a member of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Conflict, could not be reached for comment.