Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Deputy governor faults land-grabbing report as biased, un-Cambodian

Deputy governor faults land-grabbing report as biased, un-Cambodian

Deputy governor faults land-grabbing report as biased, un-Cambodian

Licadho says government can't continue to hide evictions beneath the banner of development.

PHNOM Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun has criticised a recent land rights report by the advocacy group Licadho, calling it biased and un-Cambodian. 

"I think that NGO is not Khmer, and I want to tell them that no one loves Khmer [more] than Khmer," he told the Post.

"You come from outside, so you don't understand Khmer people, and when we didn't have food to eat, you were not with us. So you should look at our achievements and what we have done," he said.

In the report "Land Grabbing and Poverty in Cambodia: The Myth of Development",  released Saturday, Licadho accuses the government of using development as a way of legitimising forced evictions.

The evictions, the group said, were really just an "orgy of land-grabbing by powerful individuals".

"Evictions and land-grabbing are not helping to develop Cambodia - they are simply causing more poverty and hardship," Licadho President Kek Galabru said in a press statement.

"A few rich and powerful individuals and companies benefit by becoming richer and stronger, while the health and welfare of countless Cambodians becomes weaker and weaker," she added.

Policy of denial

Land evictees have become the latest target in a government campaign to either deny evictions or to absolve those responsible, with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong reportedly telling an audience in Lowell, Massachusetts, in April that evictees were "professional squatters".

But, Licadho warned that the government was ignoring criticisms  "at its peril".

"The Cambodian authorities seem chronically unable - or unwilling - to respect their own laws.... Such willful disregard of the problems facing the country does no favours to the Cambodian people and, in the long run, will do no favours to the Cambodian authorities."

Nevertheless, Mann Chhoeun on Sunday reasserted his commitment to development in response to the report.  

"Our country is more developed, and investors and other people come to see and admire our city very much," he said. "If we were bad, we would not see our city develop like today."

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