Laws protecting ethnic minorities’ communal land rights are good, but their implementation has a long way to go, said participants in a forum of minorities from Mondulkiri and Kratie provinces yesterday.
After July’s parliamentary elections, legislators should take the opportunity of a newly constituted government to focus more attention on protecting the rights of minorities involved in land disputes, speakers said at the forum, hosted in Kratie by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights and attended by members of all parties but the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Actually, land laws are good for minorities, but their implementation is not effective,” said Blek Mil, a villager of the Phnoung ethnic group from Mondulkiri’s O’Raing district.
Collective farms, plantations and graveyards are among the areas belonging to ethnic minorities that are technically protected by law, but companies granted economic land concessions and wealthy individuals are able to violate the law with impunity, often assisted by violence, said Mil and other forum participants.
“We urge that the fifth term of the government resolves these problems,” he said, referring to the legislature that will take its seat after the country’s fifth round of National Assembly elections under the current constitution.
Mil said his community had recently received a land title, but the process had been long and arduous, and he knew of many communities still struggling for titles in the face of encroachment by other groups and individuals.
“Because of complicated procedures, minorities often face the problem of not having rights as a legal person to register collective land titles,” said Van Sophat, co-ordinator of CCHR’s land reform program and the forum.
To receive titles, groups must first work to be officially recognised as minority communities by authorities, Sophat said.
Koy Sokharith, deputy secretary general of the Nationalist Party headed by Sao Rany, which will join the Funcinpec Party after the elections, said that in the new term of government, the party would push for better implementation of the land law.
To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at [email protected]