THE National Assembly voted on Tuesday to approve the remaining articles of a draft law that will give the government legal grounds to seize private property for public development projects.
The Law on Expropriations, approved by the Council of Ministers earlier this month, will soon allow the seizure of any land for infrastructure projects or others deemed to be in the “public interest”.
During Tuesday’s session, members of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party urged the Cambodian People’s Party-dominated parliament to make amendments to several articles of the draft law, which they say could be used to dispossess the poor.
SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said Article 19, which states that expropriations can proceed even if they are disputed by land owners, reduced the power of the proposed Expropriations Committee to make fair rulings.
“If people disagree with an expropriation, [the law will] allow people to go to court. It is useless to go to court. The court is not independent. Going to the court seems like going into a tiger’s mouth,” she said.
Mu Sochua also suggested changes to Article 16, which gives the government-appointed committee sole responsibility for ruling on the legitimacy of expropriation claims and the compensation that should be paid to land owners.
WE SHOULD NOT PROMOTE DEVELOPMENT BASED ON THE PEOPLE'S SADNESS.
SRP lawmaker Ly Sreyvyna added that the party did not oppose development, but that it should not come at the cost of the poor. “We should not promote development based on the people’s sadness,” she said.
Ouk Rabun, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Economy and Finance who defended the law in parliament, reiterated his view that the law would be very important for defending people’s interests and would provide fair compensation in exchange for land. He noted that Article 16 also allows property owners to be involved in the process of determining the legitimacy of a claim.
Despite the opposition appeals, Nguon Nhel, first deputy president of the Assembly, said the CPP majority did not have to take its concerns on board.
“We must conform to the 50 percent-plus-one system so the minority cannot force the majority to follow them. We must adopt" the law, he said.
Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that he regretted that the law was not clear, and that the Assembly dismissed opposition requests for amendments.
“This is our Assembly’s habit. It has not listened to the minority,” he said. “I support this law, but it must be written clearly.”