Newly Formed Human Rights Commission Already at Work

Only a week after it was formed with senior opposition CNRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang at its helm, the National Assembly’s human rights commission has already accepted four complaints related to land disputes, according to members.

Mr. Chhay Eang, who leads five lawmakers from the CNRP and four from the CPP on the parliamentary panel, said four teams of two lawmakers each have been created and given one complaint each.

He said villagers from the provinces of Kompong Chhnang, Battambang, Pailin and Banteay Meanchey have submitted disputes to be investigated and that the bipartisan pairings would soon begin reviewing them.

“For some of the complicated cases, the members of the commission will conduct field investigations and collect all information from authorities, rights groups and villagers so that we can settle the case in a way both parties can accept,” Mr. Chhay Eang said.

“We work with the spirit of parliamentarians serving the people’s interests, so we start with the land case in Lor Peang,” he said, referring to a high-profile dispute in Kompong Chhnang.

“We will cooperate with all stakeholders to resolve the land issues, and especially we will need the participation of rights groups including Adhoc and Licadho since they have worked a lot on human rights and land issues.”

Last Wednesday, members of the commission met with representatives of Lor Peang village, where villagers have since 2002 been embroiled in a dispute with Chea Kheng, the wife of Mines and Energy Minister Suy Sem.

After the meeting, CPP lawmaker Lork Kheng, who also sits on the human rights commission, vowed that the dispute would be “completely resolved within a week.”

The lawmaker said Tuesday she was also hoping to engage rights groups such as Adhoc and Licadho and that it was important that the commission’s work not appear partisan.

“We don’t want to make anybody confused that this party or that party has done this or that,” she said. “We have worked as a commission to settle the matter for villagers to live in harmony with investors.”

Licadho technical supervisor Am Sam Ath said he would be pleased to work with the commission to help resolve disputes.

“It’s a positive start because there has been a culture of smearing—that civil society groups have incited villagers to protest,” Mr. Sam Ath said. “Now it is a good time for all stakeholders to work closely together for the people’s interests.

“And it’s a good thing the lawmakers are fulfilling their obligations as representatives of the villagers, not as parliamentarians of the political parties,” he added.

CNRP lawmaker Chea Poch, a member of the commission, said the group was hard at work trying to resolve the Lor Peang case.

He said Ms. Kheng, the owner of KDC International, had submitted documents to the Assembly on Monday stating her claim to the land, and that villagers gave evidence Tuesday that they had claimed the land since 1985.

Mr. Poch said the next step would be to call in Adhoc and Licadho on Thursday to provide their information on the case.

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