Rights Group Hands Over Land Dispute Data to the Government

Human rights group Licadho said Thursday that it had complied with a government request for additional information to back up its claim—which the Ministry of Land Management contests—that the number of families newly caught up in land disputes surged three-fold last year.

Last week, Licadho released a brief report to say that the number of new families embroiled in land disputes in the 13 mostly central and western provinces it monitors shot up from 3,475 in 2013 to 10,625 last year.

The Land Management Ministry’s cadastral committee soon disputed the figures with a statement of its own, claiming that the number of cases was in fact on the wane. However, the committee appeared to confuse families with cases, each of which typically involve at least several families, sometimes hundreds. It asked Licadho to provide additional data to support its figures.

Licadho, which says it stands by its report, said Thursday it had sent the committee the requested information.

“It’s unsettling that government officials are still trying to minimize the country’s widespread land conflict problem,” Licadho director Naly Pilorge said in an email to reporters. “We hope that this additional information, which we have gathered from investigations, most of which were carried out in the 13 provinces where we have field presence, will give the authorities and other interested parties the impetus to move forward and take action on this pressing issue.”

The additional data, which Licadho also released to the media, is a list of each dispute noting the date the case was opened, the number of families involved, the size of disputed land and its location, the party the families are in dispute with, and whether the case is still open or has been closed. The vast majority of the cases are labeled as open.

Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Loth confirmed receipt of the data and said it had been forwarded to the cadastral committee for review.

“Our procedure is that whenever we receive a report, the cadastral committee will send the information to the provincial and municipal cadastral bodies to verify every single case in the field,” he said.

Mr. Loth said it was too soon for the ministry to pass judgment on the data and declined to comment on what the government might do if it finds the data to be incorrect.

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