HUMAN rights activists on Thursday condemned the government’s granting of economic land concessions at the expense of local communities, as hundreds of evictees from across the Kingdom gathered to discuss their treatment at the hands of the authorities.
According to a statement by the Cambodian rights group Adhoc, last year the government granted only 409 hectares – or 0.2 percent – of the total 225,499 hectares of land concessions to ordinary citizens, while the remaining 99.8 percent was awarded to 71 private companies.
Chan Soveth, Adhoc’s senior monitoring officer, said that indigenous and Khmer communities alike frequently experience a sense of insignificance in the eyes of the authorities.
“In 2008, there were 25 cases of forced eviction across the country,” he said. “These affected 10,526 families, or 46,095 people, who were driven from their land without advance consultation and ignored by the state authorities because of claims about development. We in civil society would like to call on the government to stop the granting of economic land concessions.”
At the same time, homegrown indigenous filmmakers showcased work documenting their eviction experiences. The films were shown at an annual land-rights meeting in Kratie province that attracted more than 350 ethnic minority and Khmer community members.
Phok Pal, national creative media training coordinator for the Indigenous Community Support Organisation (ICSO), which hosted the meeting, said: “They are singing about their concerns: land conflict, mining, depleted natural resources, and at the same time about their villages and their traditional culture.”
Svay Poeun, 57, a member of the Phnong minority, said hundreds of families in his area were affected by the gold-mining explorations of Chinese company IRON Investment.
“The Phnong minority who live there used to survive on traditional gold and iron mining, but when the company came, we lost our incomes, and living conditions became more difficult,” Svay Poeun said, adding that the company’s methods had severely damaged the local environment.