Prime Minister Hun Sen has invited the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) and civil society to participate in the new National Authority for Resolving Land Disputes (NARLD).
"We are inviting all political parties that won seats in the National Assembly and civil society to participate in the mechanism of the newly established National Authority for Resolving Land Disputes," Hun Sen told the Consultative Group (CG) of international donors on March 2. "Now we are waiting for the NGOs to send their members if they wish to participate in this mechanism."
King Norodom Sihamoni signed a royal decree on February 26 to set up NARLD. It will have 11 members representing the Prime Minister, the Ministers of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction; Environment; Agriculture and Fisheries; Industry; and Social Affairs; and the Secretaries of State for the Ministries of Defense, Interior, Economy and Finance, Water, and Culture.
NARLD will receive and examine complaints, make investigations and report on them, be a watchdog for resolving land disputes, give evidence to the courts if a complaint is made against its decisions, keep a record of all complaints and disputes, and inform the public of its deliberations.
Hun Sen told the CG that NARLD was being set up as part of the government's efforts to promote land title registration to achieve one of its Millennium Development Goals - to register 32 percent of all land titles by 2010 and reach 65 percent by 2015.
Hun Sen told the donors that the government can register 20,000 land titles a month and aimed to speed up to 50,000 a month.
"I have seen that a systematic registration of land title in each commune is the best way to address the concern of the people in land tenure," he said. "Indeed, land which is a source of many conflicts is land without proper tenure, with no fence, no cultivation, and no clear boundary. Landlessness has become a concern for our government. We must work together to reverse this trend."
He said the government would promote implementation of the social land concession program to accelerate rural poverty reduction.
"Land dispute is a hot issue across the country," Hun Sen said.
In a joint press release on March 3 the CG said the donors welcomed the Prime Minister's commitment that land not being appropriately utilized be converted from economic land concessions to social land concessions for the poor, and urged increased attention to ensuring fair and equitable land dispute resolution, as tenure insecurity remained a core constraint to Cambodia's economic and social development and a key factor in rising inequality.
Thun Saray, President of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) told the Post on March 7 that ADHOC will not become a member NARLD, but will cooperate with it and provide information and recommendations on land disputes.
He said disputed land is a big and complex issue, particularly when it involved the powerful and the rich.
On March 21, 2005, more than 120 police, military police and soldiers tried to evict 218 families from a disputed four-hectare plot of land in Kbal Spean village near the town of Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province. The stand-off ended when police fired into a crowd of crudely armed demonstrators, killing five and injuring eight others.