National Assembly Argues Over Mining Bill

A discussion Friday at the Na­tional Assembly on the draft mining management law quickly turned into a spirited argument over land disputes that come up whenever anyone receives a concession from the government.

Parliamentarians voiced fear that new mining concessions would lead to the same abuses that occurred when concessions were granted for forestry, agriculture, tourism and casinos.

Lawmakers also pointed out the practice of falsely backdating land title documents as a way of driving poorer people, who can’t afford legal fees to try to get land title doc­uments, off their property.

National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranarridh re­called one land document he had seen dated 1991, during the State of Cambodia government. But the letterhead at the top of the document was for the subsequently-formed Kingdom of Cambodia, com­plete with the “Nation, Rel­igion, King” motto, which showed the date on the document had likely been doctored.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy praised a law from the State of Cambodia period that stated if people lived for five years on a piece of land, they would legally own it.

Outside the National Assembly on Friday was a group protesting the exact abuses described inside.

“A court ruled, and we lost our land,” said Chim Khan, a resident of Thmei village near the oceanside town of Kep. “We don’t have documents. I must pay $2,000 for a land title, and I don’t have that money.”

Meach Visoth, also from Kep, said he had lived more than 10 years on his land, but had no document.

Meach Visoth said families of police officials were offered $150 to leave the land and that everyone else was offered nothing. He said the relatives of the police refused the money and joined the others on the trip to Phnom Penh to pro­test.

 

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