The government yesterday accused Licadho of producing wildly misleading figures on land grabs, following the rights group’s announcement earlier this week that land conflicts in Cambodia have affected more than half a million people since 2000.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Sar Sovan, secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the ministry does not accept the NGO’s findings, adding that the government has its own, more accurate figures.
“The ministry does not recognise this figure, because it is not real. The figure we have in our hands now is not research. It’s real, and I have enough numbers to prove it,” Sovan said.
But Licadho director Naly Pilorge slammed the ministry’s dismissal.
“[Yesterday’s] reaction is a typical denial by a government that consistently ignores evidence-based criticism whilst failing to address the hard facts,” she said.
“The government, and in particular the Land Ministry, would do better to spend its time coming up with lasting solutions to the problem of land grabbing than holding press conferences to deny the undeniable.”
In May 2012, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a moratorium on new economic land concessions, and initiated a land-titling scheme shortly thereafter.
According to figures collected by the ministry since then, “of every 1,000 land titles [issued, there are just] three or four conflicts”, Sovan said.
Sovan added that in the 357 communes across the country in which land-titling has taken place, land conflicts are not a major problem.
“On average, one village has disputes [affecting] less than one person,” he said. “The accusation of failure is not real.”
According to Licadho, however, the “shameful milestone” of half a million people affected only scratches the surface of the problem.
“The figure of half a million Cambodians affected is based only on land conflicts that have been investigated by Licadho’s 13 provincial offices over the past 13 years,” Pilorge said.
“This is only half the country, and as such the figure does not begin to represent the true number of individuals affected throughout the country.”