PM Again Pledges To Give Land to the Poor

Prime Minister Hun Sen once again pledged to find land for the landless on Monday, saying he would give 50,000 disenfranchised farm­ers a total of 200,000 hectares to help calm what he called the “hot, large battlefield” of land disputes.

Hun Sen spelled out his strategy during a speech at the inauguration of the new premises of the Min­istry of National Assembly Sen­ate Relations and Inspec­tions—whose construction was also the focus of a dispute last year after it was built on land that had been a public park.

“We need to take the land from the rich, powerful officials to give to the real, poor, landless farmers as social land concessions,” the prime minister said.

This is not the first time Hun Sen has made such a pledge.

Officials said in October 2004 that hundreds of villagers had claimed the land of wealthier residents in Sihanoukville, apparently in­spired by a speech by Hun Sen that month in which he admonished powerful Cambodians for taking land from the poor and vowed to distribute land to the land­less.

Police subsequently arrested more than 30 villagers who moved on­to disputed land, and who claim­ed they were inspired to do so by the prime minister’s speech.

While Hun Sen on Monday did not mention the Ministry of Fi­nance’s suspension of three projects supported by the World Bank after the Bank discovered ir­regularities in contracts and misuse of funds in seven major projects, he did take issue with corruption in general.

He pledged to demote, fire or pro­secute officials found to be in­volved in corruption, saying the body politic needed to be protected.

“We cannot let a wound be­come a cancer which kills a person,” he said.

He cited the government’s in­vestigation into a ship smuggling oil into the Phnom Penh port as an ex­ample of a successful move against “international standard corruption,” which he said was uncovered by “government secret agents.”

Hun Sen added that corruption oc­curs in all countries.

The government has been press­ed for years by donors to in­troduce a long-awaited anti-corruption law, which was scheduled for ratification by the Assembly last year.

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