Government land sector reform paper to tackle poverty, food security

Government land sector reform paper to tackle poverty, food security

The government yesterday hailed its track record on land policy reform as it approved a new “white paper” on the subject, although activists doubted authorities’ willingness to tackle Cambodia’s myriad ongoing land disputes.

Prime Minister Hun Sen green-lighted the document developed by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction at a cabinet meeting yesterday.

According to a summary, the paper will guide land sector reform in a bid to tackle poverty and improve food security.

The document covers a range of issues, from land administration, use and distribution to housing policy, squatter settlements, indigenous land rights and gender equality in relation to land ownership.

It also encompasses military development zones, establishes a property evaluation system and will tackle climate change, according to the statement posted online by government spokesman Phay Siphan.

However, no details on specific new measures were mentioned, and the full document was not released.

Instead, the statement cited the government’s “five steps” forward to recover from the Khmer Rouge’s elimination of land ownership, beginning with the distribution of land to “all families” in 1989 and its allocation of land to returnees in the early 1990s.

It also noted giving land to former Khmer Rouge soldiers in 1998, the establishment of social land concessions in 2003 and Hun Sen’s 2012 land-titling scheme, which saw 610,000 land titles issues.

According to a report by Licadho, the number of families affected by land disputes last year – some 10,625 across 13 provinces – was three times more than in 2013.

That report’s release caused a tit-for-tat with the government, which questioned the group’s figures.

Am Sam Ath, Licadho technical supervisor, yesterday welcomed the policy but doubted the government’s capacity to implement change when it came to land disputes, which often involve politically connected companies.

“We have so many documents about resolution mechanisms, but there is no effective solution for land conflicts because the government lacks the will,’ Sam Ath said.

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