Villagers Raise Land Issues With UN Official

More than a dozen villagers met with UN human rights representative Peter Leuprecht Sun­day, raising complaints of the devastation that has emerged from the government’s po­licy of awarding land concessions.

After the meeting, villagers said they hoped Leuprecht would bring their complaints to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who three weeks earlier, had vowed in a speech to reform land concessions that have hurt the poor.

A woman from Kompong Thom province’s Tumring commune asked that the Chup Rub­ber Plantation Company give her the three hectares it promised be­fore bulldozing her fields in 2001.

“I would like to appeal to Samdech [Hun Sen] to take ac­tion for the families who did not get three hectares,” Tok An said.

Villagers from Pursat and Kom­pong Chhnang provinces said they hoped the government would reconsider the boundaries of a 315,028-hectare concession awarded to the Pheapimex company in 2000, as it includes of­fices, pagodas and com­munal forests.

“Officials won’t recognize our right to the forest because they claim all the land belongs to Pheapimex company,” said Kuch Veng, a member of a Pursat community forestry group.

A man from Mondolkiri pro­vince asked that the government stop the Wuzhishan company, re­cently awarded 10,000 hectares in O’Reang district, from spreading herbicide on local hillsides.

“Ten buffalo have already died be­cause they ate the [herbicide-treated] grass,” said Hor Phlil of O’Reang district’s Sen Mo­no­rom commune.

Leuprecht will discuss the is­sues with Hun Sen and ministry of­ficials this week, said Saku Ak­meemana, spokeswoman for the Cam­bodia office of the UN High Com­missioner for Human Rights.

Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun and Secretary of State Chan Tong Yves said Monday they could not comment on the complaints until after meeting with Leuprecht.

Om Yentieng, head of the government’s human rights committee, defended the government’s ability to resolve land disputes.                         “Any case raised by NGOs or Peter Leuprecht, they never solve, only the government solves the cases.” Om Yentieng said.


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