Ministry Claims NGO’s Land Dispute Numbers Misleading

The Ministry of Land Management has again accused rights group Licadho of spreading false data that shows that the number of families embroiled in new or intensifying land disputes jumped threefold last year.

In February, Licadho said that 10,625 families involved in land disputes approached the NGO for the first time in 2014 in the 13 central and western provinces it monitors. Licadho said the disputes involved some 50,000 people, and three times as many families as it recorded in 2013.

The ministry disputed the figures within days, insisting that there were only about 1,260 unresolved land dispute “cases” across the country. However, it failed to make the distinction between families and cases, each of which can involve hundreds of families.

On Friday, the Land Management Ministry again accused Licadho of spreading false numbers.

“The ministry must announce to the public that Licadho’s report does not reflect the truth and makes the public confused,” it said in a statement.

In its statement, the ministry said the data Licadho provided to back up its claims was incomplete and that it told the NGO’s staff during a meeting in May that 34 of the 112 cases on its list could not be verified.

Contacted Sunday, ministry spokesman Seng Loth said that Licadho’s technical supervisor, Am Sam Ath, had reiterated the NGO’s figures from February in a recent interview with Radio France International (RFI). He said the government knew of about 800 active land disputes nationwide as of last month, but did not say how many families those cases involved.

“The ministry’s figures are very accurate because they include information from the local and national levels,” Mr. Loth said. “What the organization has announced hurts the value of the government’s efforts.”

Mr. Sam Ath said Licadho stood by its original figures and that he defended them on Thursday during an interview with Radio Free Asia—not RFI as Mr. Loth claimed.

“We, too, have conducted very accurate research in all the cases we have received,” he said.

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