Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land activists seek solutions

Land activists seek solutions

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Over 700 land activists gather on Tuesday at the Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park to deliver petitions seeking solutions to their longstanding land disputes. Pha Lina

Land activists seek solutions

More than 700 land activists from the capital, Preah Sihanouk, Svay Rieng, Tbong Khmum, Preah Vihear and Kandal provinces gathered on Tuesday at Freedom Park in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district to deliver petitions seeking solutions to their longstanding land disputes.

The activists said they intended to submit their petitions to the justice, agriculture and land management ministries, the National Assembly and the newly established joint committee at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence, but were rounded up by authorities and made to gather at the park.

They said some other activists who had initially joined them were stopped halfway and paid to return home. Journalists, civil society groups and UN officials were also barred from attending the gathering.

You Veasna, who represents communities locked in land disputes in Preah Sihanouk province, said such issues are omnipresent. He urged the authorities to seek solutions for villagers instead of trading blame.

“[Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction] Chea Sophara has the real will to solve problems, but other officials do the opposite. They just point fingers at each other and push us around.

“Some officials, for instance, refer us to a certain institution but officials at that institution refer us to other places for a solution. Eventually, there is no compromise. It’s a shame that the government employs such officials,” he said.

Veasna alleged that long-running land disputes are left unsolved because the relevant authorities were afraid of well-connected businesspeople. He said the practice had taken a toll on the villagers’ livelihood.

Lim Sophy, a community representative from Koh Kong province, urged the authorities to release land activists who have been imprisoned over disputes. She also appealed for an immediate end to intimidation and threats against protesters through the judicial system.

“Government officials are not willing to solve land disputes. They always point fingers and keep saying they are investigating. I’ve heard that for nearly 10 years and they still haven’t wrapped up their investigation!” she exclaimed.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karuna said on Tuesday that authorities at sub-national level seem unable to find speedy solutions because some land disputes involved well-connected companies and individuals who grabbed the people’s land without proper compensation.

“Companies backed by powerful people make it hard for those with no power to seek justice and solutions. In the past, such firms even paid government officials to suppress the people. The law doesn’t seem to be very effective,” he said.

On October 16, Hun Sen created a joint committee to accept land dispute-related complaints and petitions at his residence in Phnom Penh and in Kandal province’s Takhmao city.

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces deputy commander and commander of Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, Hing Bun Heang, was appointed to head the committee.

He told The Post on Tuesday that he was aware of the protesters’ gathering and is reviewing their petitions.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro