There were 173 reported land disputes last year, of which the vast majority remained unresolved, according to statistics released by the NGO Forum on Cambodia.
The report also showed that the majority of disputes concerned agricultural land. The provinces with the highest numbers of conflicts were Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, and Kandal. An average of 188 families were involved in each dispute, and only 18 percent of conflicts were resolved or partly resolved by the end of 2008. The numbers were compiled from reports in four local media outlets—three newspapers and one radio station—and then verified with NGO Forum’s own database.
Though 2008 was the first year for which the organization analyzed land disputes, NGO Forum Executive Director Chhith Sam Ath said Tuesday, “we could see the trend of land disputes has been increasing.
In many of the conflicts examined, both sides lacked legal documentation. A total of 44.2 percent of complainants had no documents at all, and made their claim based on the fact that they had already settled on the land. Nearly half, or 45.8 percent of defendants had unofficial or unauthorized documents claiming ownership of the land.
Chhith Sam Ath said that he would like to see government officials, “go through the legal procedure to see who owns the land,” before granting leases or economic and social land concessions.
He also called for proper consultation with villagers when arranging economic or social concessions.
Hep Sokhannaro, project manager for the Forum’s analysis, said Tuesday that he was surprised to see that 28 percent of affected people filed complaints directly with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, whereas less than 10 percent filed with the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution or the district, provincial and national cadastral commissions for land disputes.
“The government should educate them more where to file complaints,” Hep Sokhannaro said.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap disputed the NGO Forum’s findings, saying that the government is working hard to solve land disputes, and that the organization had a self-interested agenda.
“The report may be to lobby for more funding,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Neou Vannarin)