The SRP threatened Thursday to pull out of the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes if it does not listen to the party’s criticisms of large-scale evictions.
SRP leader Sam Rainsy said his lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, who is deputy chairman of the authority, will resign if the party’s concerns about mass evictions are not addressed. He cited the planned evictions in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak area, from which more than 4,000 families may be removed, as one particularly pressing case.
“If they proceed without consulting the people and without giving market-value compensation, then we will react,” Sam Rainsy said.
The SRP has not pulled out yet because it has been able to settle some small local disputes through Eng Chhay Eang, Sam Rainsy said. But he added that the authority has done little to resolve disputes of national significance.
Eng Chhay Eang said that he supports the party’s decision. “I will encourage the committee to work, but if it fails, I will withdraw,” he said.
Eng Chhay Eang added that the authority has not touched on any major land disputes and has kept him out of the decision-making process.
“Only [Cabinet Minister] Sok An can make decisions,” he claimed, referring to the authority chairman.
Svay Sitha, Council of Ministers undersecretary of state and the authority spokesman, could not be reached for comment.
National Assembly and Honorary CPP President Heng Samrin said the authority has recovered thousands of hectares of state land for the government since its creation in February 2006. He also said that the SRP’s announcement is likely a political maneuver ahead of April’s commune elections.
“If the SRP thinks that withdrawing from the committee can get them more votes, then they should do so,” Heng Samrin said.
Kek Galabru, president of local rights group Licadho, said that her organization has always been concerned that the authority did not have enough power to handle the issues it was created to resolve.
“I have more and more reasons to believe that the National Authority…is not effective,” she said, adding that it had resolved only five or six out of around 2,000 cases it was handed.