UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, has urged the government to speed up land registration for indigenous people to prevent possible further land clearance by opportunists.
She said this during a meeting with the Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara on Wednesday.
They also discussed the process of giving land titles to indigenous people and the affordable housing programme for poor families.
In a statement, the ministry said it informed Smith that Cambodia’s land and construction sector has seen vast development in the last few years and that five million plots or 71 per cent of total applications had been registered.
The government’s first concern, it said, was security.
The land registration for 24 indigenous communities contributed to maintaining their identity, tradition and cultural preservation.
It allows them to have economic and social land concessions and to build houses for people who now cooperate with private partners to develop affordable housing.
The government emphasises the people’s right to have a house and land, it said.
After listening to Sophara’s report, Smith fully supported the social land concession and affordable housing programmes.
Smith, the statement said, requested the ministry to register land plots for indigenous communities throughout the country to avoid land clearing from ill-intentioned people.
“Land is crucial for sustainable development, poverty elimination and food security,” Smith said.
Adhoc senior officer of community network, Pen Bunna, told The Post on Thursday that land registration was slow because lower-level government officers did not dare to make decisions or reported in detail about powerful and wealthy individuals who violated land belonging to indigenous people.
Research by Adhoc and other relevant ministries said there were about 90 indigenous communities in 2001 that used the forest as farmland or as personal property.
Some powerful and wealthy individuals wanted to take this land and could influence local authorities to slow the land registration down, the research said.