Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land rights elusive for indigenous minorities

Land rights elusive for indigenous minorities

Ethnic Koy villagers attend a meeting about land rights in Preah Vihear province in 2014.
Ethnic Koy villagers attend a meeting about land rights in Preah Vihear province in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Land rights elusive for indigenous minorities

Bureaucratic inefficiency and “endemic” corruption are leading factors in land loss among Cambodia’s 190,000 indigenous peoples, who are under siege from land grabs by powerful elites and exploitative corporations, according to a report launched yesterday by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

The European Union-funded report focuses on the difficulties indigenous groups face in acquiring collective land titles (CLTs), which CCHR characterised as the surest legal safeguard against losing land to economic land concessions (ELCs).

While CLTs held by indigenous groups are protected under Cambodian law, they have been “almost non-existent” in practice, said the report, due mostly to “a lengthy and extremely complex [registration] process” that can take several years. CCHR also attributed the dearth of CLTs to a “lack of awareness” of their very existence among indigenous groups and the local authorities who purportedly represent them.

“The authorities never support us; they dismiss our requests,” said one indigenous community representative quoted in the report.

Of the country’s 458 indigenous communities, only nine have been able to complete the “arduous” registration process, said Vann Sophath, a lead researcher behind the report.

Speaking at the launch yesterday, EU Ambassador George Edgars called on the government to “accelerate the CLT registration procedure”.

Seng Lo, a spokesman of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said that while they had received 43 CLT requests in 2015, the difficulty of processing them meant that the ministry was only able to certify 10.

Phin Sophey, 34, an indigenous person from Koh Kong province, where indigenous land remains under threat from a hydroelectric dam, said at yesterday’s event that despite its dire findings, she took some comfort in the report’s launch.

“Coming here at least reassures me that we are not alone. There are people who support us. We hope we can get a CLT very soon,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • Prime Minister: Take back islands from inactive developers

    The government will “take back” land on roughly 30 islands from private companies that have not made progress on planned developments, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that also targeted land-grabbing villagers and idle provincial governors. Speaking at the inauguration of the

  • Land on capital’s riverfront is opened up for investment

    The government has signed off on a proposal to designate more than 9 hectares of land along Phnom Penh’s riverfront as state-private land, opening it up for private investment or long-term leasing. The 9.25-hectare stretch of riverfront from the capital’s Night Market to the

  • Royal Group's Koh Rong luxury hotel officially opens

    The Royal Sands Koh Rong hotel on Monday marked its official launch as the first luxury resort on Cambodia’s most visited island. Prime Minister Hun Sen presided over the inauguration of the hotel, which has been open since December, and features rooms priced at