NGO officials have refused invitations to join a new government land dispute authority, saying that doing so would harm their ability to act as independent monitors.
The National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes was established by royal decree and signed by King Norodom Sihamoni on Feb 26. Presided over by CPP Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, the authority is to include members from the main political parties as well as local NGO officials.
“We will not join,” said Thun Saray, president of local rights group Adhoc.
“We would like to let the government people solve land dispute cases by themselves. The big cases involve high government officials…it is better for us to stay outside than inside,” he said.
Licadho President Kek Galabru agreed, but added that she would be willing to form a group of NGO officials to consult with the new authority.
“Once you join a committee…the statements of the committee are your statements, the decisions of the committee are your decisions. It’s harder to criticize,” said Ou Virak, Cambodian Center for Human Rights spokesman.
“If people want to join, we have to respect their view. But CCHR will not join the committee,” he added.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who was involved with Prime Minister Hun Sen in establishing the new authority, said he respected the decisions of NGO officials not to join, but added that their participation was key.
The new authority would be able to trump decisions made by other government agencies dealing with land disputes and would be responsible for handling the most difficult cases.
“I think all concerned parties need to talk to each other,” he said.
“It is the opinion of the NGO [not to join] but those who want to help the people should take part in the dialogue,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Yun Samean)