Farmers need rice fields and if they lose land, they lose what the depend on for living.
Two hundred-and-two land dispute cases affecting 25,796 families were recorded in Cambodia last year, according to human rights group Adhoc.
Adhoc Land Programme Officer Ouch Leng said yesterday that 23 cases involved forced evictions affecting 12,389 families and 14 cases involved 8,025 hectares in land concessions for private companies.
“The government’s mechanism to solve the land disputes does not pay attention or take measures to stop the spread of disputes that make the communities hopeless,” he said.
Ouch Leng said that in land disputes, companies did not discuss development plans with the people, instead working with the authorities and armed forces to announce that the land belonged to them.
Ouch Leng added that last year 14,316 people protested 168 times against land disputes with 23 cases dispersed by armed forces.
“The authorities accused the protesters of incitement and turmoil,” he said. “If they did not lose land, they would not spend time and money protesting.”
Ouch Leng said that in 2010, 14 companies involved in land disputes were not registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and another 28 companies were unregistered but listed in government sub-decrees.
“The presence of the private companies made the villagers worry a lot because they did not improve their standard of living, but made them lose their land.”
According to Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries data, between 1993 and June 2010, the government signed contracts with 142 private companies, conceding more than 1,385,555 hectares of land.
Among the 142 companies, 43 companies have been shut down and 99 companies are operating across 17 provinces.
Community Legal Education Center director Yeng Virak said that the government should recheck the offering of land for private companies because it affects citizens.
“Farmers need rice fields and if they lose land, they lose what they depend on for living,” he said.
Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Nun Pheany said that specialist officials always evaluate the effect before making a request to the government.
“We always evaluate the effect before allowing the companies to invest,” she said.