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Most land disputes in Cambodia unsettled

Most land disputes in Cambodia unsettled

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Bin Chhin, deputy prime minister and chairman of the Land Dispute Authority at the Council of Ministers, speaks during a meeting in Phnom Penh, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post

Less than 30 per cent of complaints filed to the government’s National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution (NALDR) throughout 2012 were resolved, according to its annual report released yesterday.

According to the document, distributed yesterday at the NALDR annual convention, the government body, which comprises representatives from multiple ministries, dealt with 103 complaints, resolving 30.

These complaints, which came from residents and institutions across 19 provinces, increased from 93 in 2011.

Twenty-five complaints related to disputes in Phnom Penh, 11 were in Kampong Thom province and nine were in Preah Sihanouk province.

“Four of these land dispute cases were resolved directly by Hun Manith, the general secretary of NALDR,” the report says.

Deputy Prime Minister and NALDR president Bin Chhin said complaints had increased due to some provincial authorities flouting the law and ignoring complaints at a local level.

“Some officials made documents illegally,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said the number of complaints was concerning, but added that NGOs had observed many more instances of residents not filing complaints.

“Authorities should continue resolving more complaints in order to break this deadlock of land disputes that is leading to protests and violence,” he said.

Sam Rainsy lawmaker Son Chhay echoed the sentiments, adding that there were actually “hundreds of thousands” of people in land disputes who could file complaints due to the injustices inflicted upon them by powerful people.

“NALDR could not resolve most of the reported cases because they happen systematically, backed by rich and powerful people. In order to resolve these problems, these people should respect the laws,” he said.

A report from rights-group Adhoc, released last week, said that despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s moratorium on land concessions and his ambitious land-titling scheme, community representatives and land activists still faced violence and threats of violence, and arrests related to land disputes more than doubled in 2012.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]