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Firms’ ties to gov’t ‘fuel land disputes’

Officials and the courts are prevented from resolving land disputes because companies displacing poor Cambodians are tied to powerful members of the government, military and judiciary, civil society groups said yesterday.

Land disputes have become a seemingly incurable disease blighting the country, fed by the close relationship between politically connected companies and senior government officials, Latt Ky, head of land and livelihoods at rights group Adhoc, told a conference in the capital on how corporations affect people’s human rights.

“If development is transparent, people will not be persecuted. But previously, development has been the main goal, making it impossible for the authorities to seek [just] solutions,” he said. “The authorities do not dare to use their roles to confront the idea of ‘development’. That is a major factor that has made the communities miserable up to now.”

More must be done to improve access to justice for people affected by forced evictions and displacement across the country, he added.

“The legal framework should be enough to settle land disputes happening locally, so why is it still complicated and impossible to settle them? This happens because those who create land disputes are government officials, including senior officers, ministers, lawmakers, senators and military commanders, so the disputes cannot be solved,” he said.

More than 770,000 people have been affected by land grabs across the country since 2000, with early 2014 seeing a spike in reported cases, according to Adhoc.

In May 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen imposed a moratorium on the granting of new economic land concessions to companies.

However, several were still issued in the run-up to last year’s election, according to monitoring groups.

Lor Navuth, director of the cadastral department at the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction, could not be reached.

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