The Cambodian Center for Human Rights yesterday expressed concern at a recent spate of land disputes coming on the heels of last month’s vote, and questioned whether campaign promises of resolving the Kingdom’s ongoing land issues had been forgotten now that the election has passed.
The cases ranged from a farmer in Oddar Meanchey province having his crops destroyed by soldiers to make way for an alleged military base, to villagers in Koh Kong learning of plans to evict them to make way for commercial developments, to some 40 villagers in Preah Vihear being threatened with eviction as “punishment” for voting for the opposition.
A statement calls “on the interim government … to do their utmost to keep the peace and to adhere to their pre-election promises to improve the land rights situation in Cambodia”.
The statement also refers to a case in Phnom Penh in which a small food seller’s tools were allegedly smashed by Khun Sea Import Export Company guards after she refused $15,000 in compensation to leave her home.
Ly Srea Kheng, 68, the vendor’s husband, maintained he has residency documents and construction letters issued by authorities, and that he, his son and his daughter were injured in a beating related to the dispute.
“Our land is located in a judgment area that will be given a title later,” he said. “We do not want any money. I want to live here.”
CCHR land reform project coordinator Vann Sophat says in the statement that the disputes “exhibit a willful disregard on the part of the interim government” of campaign promises to end Cambodia’s cycle of land disputes, and calls on authorities to “ensure that land disputes are stalled until stability is restored”.
However, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday called the group’s statement “useless, except to create problems and make people confused”.
“The law exists. We just implement it. That is, someone who violates the law will be prosecuted by court,” he said. “If anyone feels they are the victims, please go to the court.”