Prime Minister Hun Sen urged authorities to focus on settling land and worker disputes to avoid social unrest, as he addressed a Central Committee meeting of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in the run-up to the 2023 general election.
The November 26 meeting was attended by over 3,000 CPP members.
Hun Sen said all party members in the CPP-led government must continue to pay attention to fulfilling their duties to serve the nation and the people, especially by maintaining security and social order and implementing the “safe village-commune policy”, including intensifying clampdown on robberies and drug trafficking.
“The authorities must take care to resolve long-running land disputes for the people quickly and effectively and provide the people with necessary services quickly to avoid causing problems,” he said.
The premier also urged them to try to resolve disputes between factory workers and their employers through out-of-court settlements.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group LICADHO, said this represented a good opportunity to remind the authorities and the CPP members to solve people’s problems.
“Because we know that the people, especially farmers, rely on land to grow rice and the people need the land for their home. So, if there is no timely solution for them, it is the opposite of the government’s policy to alleviate poverty,” he said.
He continued that when land disputes become prolonged, it pushes people into poverty and inspires other phenomenon such as protests and demonstrations or causes things like family separations, violence and impacts on women.
Sam Ath suggested that authorities at all levels settle the disputes justly and fairly, and that if the government urged officials to do this it would solve many of the land related problems.
“But some disputes continue to be prolonged for people. So, I think that the relevant authorities should be determined and committed to resolving these land issues. If the meat is rotten, cut it off, so the people get justice and proper compensation,” he said.
He also said that the problems with workers’ jobs were not that different from the land disputes.
When disputes drag on for too long, it deals a blow to the government’s reputation, he said, citing an ongoing labour dispute between the NagaWorld integrated casino resort and their laid-off employees as an example.
Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment on November 27.
According to the ministry, from 2003 to 2021, the cadastral commissions in cities and districts had received 9,126 complaints, of which 8,348 had been addressed at the lower levels and 4,346 had been resolved.
In Kampong Speu province, the land dispute resolution commission said authorities had always tried to address the issues and properly verified long-term residents of state land as instructed by the prime minister.
In 2001, the government issued a land policy statement, and this year it rolled out land policy books with the main objective and goal of strengthening land ownership security and land markets by preventing or settling disputes and managing land and natural resources equitably, sustainably and effectively.