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Land disputes increase: report

NGO Forum Executive Director Tek Vannara speaks about a report on the Kingdom’s land disputes yesterday in Phnom Penh.
NGO Forum Executive Director Tek Vannara speaks about a report on the Kingdom’s land disputes yesterday in Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Land disputes increase: report

There were 56 new land disputes across the country last year, adding to 314 unresolved case at the end of 2015, a report issued yesterday by the NGO Forum on Cambodia says, marking the highest number of new cases since the group started monitoring in 2007.

The NGO Forum report was launched yesterday in Phnom Penh and shows that the closest to 2016’s bumper year for new disputes was 2012, when 46 new disputes were registered.

Last year’s figure is also a large leap from 2015, which saw only 23 cases. “This is because development activity around Phnom Penh has increased, and other areas where land has been given to foreign companies for agricultural purposes,”said Tek Vannara, the executive director of NGO Forum, which is a coalition of groups.

The report also says that only 58 pre-existing disputes were resolved in 2016, far lower than each of the preceding four years except for 2015, when only 21 cases were resolved. The low number of resolutions came even as the other 314 unresolved cases affected more than 54,000 households, and covered over a million hectares, it says.

Vong Kosal, NGO Forum’s land safety coordinator, said authorities had been slow in solving cases because they did not want to become involved in disputes. “The authorities do not have the will to solve the problem for the people,” Kosal said. “The land grabbers are powerful and rich, and the land disputes are political, so the solution is postponed.”

Am Sam Ath, head of monitoting at rights group Licadho, which is part of the NGO Forum, said the high new number of cases showed the urgency of dealing with land disputes. “They [the affected] need to earn a living, and when their land is being exploited they have no time to think about their jobs.”

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