Rampant land grabs, economic land concessions and a disastrous land-titling program have fostered an environment of insecurity for Cambodia’s most marginalised citizens, according to a new report, which argues that the Kingdom needs to rethink its current business-centric development model.
Based on 400 interviews, Human Security and Land Rights in Cambodia, by researchers Pou Sovachana and Alice Beban, aims to determine what kind of insecurities people living in disputed areas have, and what mechanisms actually provide security to those members of the population. It bases its concept of human security – “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want” – on the principles of a 1994 UNDP report.
“We focused on how the victims feel – the feeling of being oppressed,” Pou said. “We wanted to paint a picture on the gravity of those effects . . . Dignity, respect: these things cannot be quantified.”
Exploring such land insecurity, one woman in Kampong Chham clued researchers into how corrupt the land business is in her village.
“The village chief controls all the land sales here. If we want to sell the land ourselves, we can’t; he won’t sign the papers,” she said. “He says we have to sell the land to him for $250 [per hectare], then he sells to the other person for $1,000 [per hectare].”
To combat such injustices, the report recommends that the Cambodian government pay more attention to the needs of its citizens as opposed to focusing exclusively on economic growth, however, Ministry of Environment spokesperson Sao Sopheap insisted that a stronger economy and greater security for citizens went hand in hand.