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EU calls for improved government resolution of land disputes

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More than 800 villagers from Kratie province rally in Phnom Penh to seek land dispute solutions in October this year. Heng Chivoan

EU calls for improved government resolution of land disputes

An EU delegation and civil society groups have called for better action on land disputes in Cambodia, even as the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction outlined its plans to offer speedier solutions to remaining disputes next year.

First counsellor of the EU delegation in Cambodia Simone Pieri said land disputes remain a critical issue, adding that the EU received many dispute petitions related to economic land concessions this year.

In recent months, the government has brokered a number of ad hoc solutions to land disputes with affected communities around the country. However, concerns have been raised over the inclusiveness and transparency of some cases.

The EU has urged the government to adopt a single, consistent, transparent methodology to resolve land disputes and a clear standard for the allocation of compensation.

“Ensuring progress in the resolution of land disputes remains one of the highest political priorities of the EU’s relations with the Cambodian government,” Pieri said.

At the 10th EU-Cambodia Joint Committee, held in March this year, the EU also expressed its concerns over allegations of land grabbing related to economic land concessions for sugar plantations.

It reiterated that respect of human and labour rights is embedded as a prerequisite in the EU’s Everything But Arms trade concession with the Kingdom.

The EU’s comments came after the ministry issued a report on Tuesday saying its priority was to speed up the country’s remaining land disputes.

The report said it would do so through the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution, cadastral committees and mobile land dispute solving units.

The report said the ministry plans to have registered 83 per cent of the country’s estimated seven million land plots by next year, 94 per cent by 2020, and 100 per cent by 2021.

The ministry will also approve the administration’s boundary, infrastructure and current land-use maps in 197 provincial cities and districts to make land registration easier.

The ministry requested that provincial authorities stop all approvals of land ownership transfers that have not been registered or are contentious to prevent further land disputes.

The report continued that from January 1 next year, the cadastral authority will stop all land registration and the issuing of land ownership certificates for the first phase of spatial land title registration. Instead, the land will be registered and a land title will be issued.

Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy told The Post on Wednesday that the government has established many taskforces to tackle land disputes that, if correctly implemented, will help reduce land disputes.

Vuthy said many of the land disputes started years ago, especially in economic land concessions such as the beach areas in Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong provinces.

He said to quickly end land disputes and receive an acceptable result, the ministry should focus on areas in which the prices have increased rapidly, special economic zones and economic land concessions.

To end land disputes they should register land plots and issue land ownership documents faster, he said.

“We want solutions for those high potential areas with lots of development. The government should address those areas first to prevent disputes between powerful individuals and poor people."