The European Union had provided more than US$265,000 to a land reform project that aimed to shift political will and opinion towards land and human rights in Cambodia, development partners said yesterday.
The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights will spearhead the Cambodian Land Law Reform Project, which aims to make land rights an election issue for the 2012 commune and the 2013 national assembly elections.
“The failure of the existing laws, institutions and procedures to protect the rights of ordinary Cambodians is the biggest problem in Cambodia today,” project co-ordinator Ouch Leng said by telephone yesterday.
Ouch Leng said a key part of the project was to raise awareness with media campaigns and civil society meetings.
In a press release published yesterday, CCHR said an online map detailing land conflicts around the country would also be published.
A report released by the rights group Adhoc last week showed that upwards of 2.2 million square hectares of Cambodian land – or more than 12 per cent – was transferred to 225 private developers last year.
Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha agreed that land issues in Cambodia were very complicated and said this was a result of increasing land values.
“When the land was cheap, there were no land disputes, but now the price of land is skyrocketing, so some people who live on state land unlawfully claim the land belongs to them. That is one of the problems,” he said.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia, however, welcomes donor-country support because the government alone cannot do everything – we need financial and technical support from donors.”
Tep Vanny, a representative of Boeung Kak lake villagers who have been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with authorities after a 99-year lease of land around the lake was granted to a private company, said she was upset to see competent authorities ignore the law.
“We have a very good law (the 2001 Land Law), but the judicial authority disobey the law,” Tep Vanny said.