The government will create a working group in conjunction with NGOs in an attempt to address the growing number of land disputes, Om Yentieng, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said yesterday.
Speaking on the sidelines of a two-day, European Union-funded workshop on land issues, Mr Yentieng explained that the new group would allow CHRC to investigate disputes that may not fall under the human rights purview.
“After this workshop, we will start working with the rights groups to go out together for field research into the root causes of that disputed land,” he said. “Then we will report our findings. But if civil society has a different conclusion…we will work together.”
During yesterday’s workshop, speakers decried a lack of adequate mechanisms to deal with land complaints and poor implementation of the 2001 Land Law.
“Implementation of this law can increase social cohesion and sustainability…and limit human migration,” said EU charge d’affaires, Rafael Dochao Moreno.
Ny Chakrya, head of land rights for Adhoc, noted that the law is frequently flouted. According to his research, just 59 out of 184 concessions are wholly legal. Dozens of companies have concessions without contracts with the Ministry of Finance or Ministry of Agriculture, and a number of owners were conceded far more than the allowable 10,000 hectares per individual.
While organizers insisted the workshop was meant to foster dialogue between the government and civil society, it was clear yesterday most parties involved were eager to defend their actions.
Shortly after Khan Channy, an indigenous minority representative from Mondolkiri, outlined a number of recent disputes in the province, deputy provincial governor Heng Samnang took a microphone and began running through the government’s actions.
“We tried to find a solution, we gave them concessions, but they wanted more because they were greedy. They encroached on protected areas,” he said.