Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘No land revolution’ coming: official

‘No land revolution’ coming: official

Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, chairman of the National Authority for Land Dispute and Resolution, speaks at a Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction conference yesterday.
Deputy Prime Minister Bin Chhin, chairman of the National Authority for Land Dispute and Resolution, speaks at a Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction conference yesterday. Heng Chivoan

‘No land revolution’ coming: official

While vast tracts of Cambodia remain concentrated in the hands of a few and accusations of land grabbing remain rife, the broader distribution of land is more than equitable and could never lead to an uprising, the government official in charge of finding solutions to land disputes insisted yesterday.

“Cambodia will not have a land revolution,” Bin Chhin, the national land dispute resolution director, told the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction’s annual meeting.

Chhin’s remarks echoed those by Prime Minister Hun Sen in September, when he publicly slammed opposition plans to create tribunals to adjudicate land disputes, saying it was simply cover for a redistribution scheme that could lead to a “class war” as tycoons rose up to defend their interests.

While a moratorium on the granting of new economic land concessions (ELCs) was declared in 2012, rights group Licadho estimates 2.1 million hectares, or one-eighth of Cambodia’s total land mass, lies in the hands of large business interests.

The result has often been the displacement of local farmers and indigenous people, who are left with few meaningful official mechanisms to defend their claim to live and work on the land.

Chhin maintained the Land Dispute Resolution department had met with great success in 2015. Of 637 cases negotiated, 376 were solved, 192 denied, and 69 withdrawn.

But Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy described the situation as a crisis and bemoaned the lack of recourse available to those displaced.

“How many land cases happen in this country? It’s huge; it’s a big crisis,” said Vuthy. “Even through the land dispute mechanisms or the courts we don’t see good resolutions. People say we only see rulings in favour of the big companies, and the poor people suffer.”

“Already people are getting more and more angry with private companies. This is not a good sign for the country,” he said, adding that there is a historical precedent of Cambodian farmers who “stood up against land grabbers”.

The process of granting ELCs has been a notoriously opaque one. A 2013 Global Witness report found 20 per cent of all land granted as ELCs was held by just five people, all of them senators from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

Nonetheless, Chhin was adamant yesterday that land distribution in Cambodia is far more equitable than in regional neighbours.

“Our farmers have their own lands. In the Philippines, farmers rent the land since they do not own the land as our farmers do,” said Chhin.

However, president of rights group Adhoc, Thun Saray, said yesterday that while farmers do own their own land, reductions to the size of their property has made their livelihoods unsustainable.

“In the countryside, the farmers need land to survive, to work,” said Saray. “They don’t have enough land.”

Saray conceded Chhin was probably correct that there would be no “land revolution”, but said that’s because those with cause to rebel have been forced abroad in search of work as the land they previously farmed was swallowed by ELCs.

“There will be no land revolution because a lot of people migrate to Thailand, Malaysia,” he said. “The farmers need land to survive, to have enough income for their family.

This is why a lot of people migrate. Now they have the opportunity to migrate, which is why they don’t resist in the country but instead work outside the country to feed their family.”

MOST VIEWED

  • South Korea’s first lady brings hope to ill boy

    South Korea’s first lady Kim Keon-hee – wife of current president of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Suk Yeol – met with a 14-year-boy with congenital heart disease during her trip to the Kingdom for the ASEAN Summit. After their meeting it was announced that the

  • Hun Sen gets Covid, shuns G20, APEC summits

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has tested positive for Covid-19 in Indonesia, where he is slated to attend the G20 summit in his capacity of the ASEAN chair. In a social media post addressing the Cambodian public, he said: “Before leaving Cambodia, I always

  • Moody’s sets outlook rating to ‘negative’ for Cambodia

    US global rating agency Moody’s Investors Service Inc on November 15 announced that it downgraded Cambodia’s outlook from “stable” to “negative” and maintained its B2 local and foreign currency issuer ratings. “The negative outlook reflects a deteriorating external position as illustrated by the severe

  • Hun Sen’s Covid infection caused by ‘weakened antibody’ after summit

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said exhaustion from heavy workload before and during the recent ASEAN Summit may have led to him contracting Covid-19 due to his weakened immune system, while rejecting speculations that the infection was caused by leaders of some countries who did not

  • Korean first lady paves way for ill boy’s surgery

    A 14-year-old boy with congenital heart disease who was lucky enough to meet with South Korean first lady Kim Keon-hee may get the chance of a lifetime and receive surgery and treatment at Asan Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea. After seeing his plight, many

  • Kingdom’s rice crowned world’s No1

    Cambodia’s Phka Rumduol jasmine variety has been crowned the World’s Best Rice for the fifth time at the TRT (The Rice Trader) World Rice Conference in Phuket, Thailand on November 17, according to leaders of the Kingdom’s apex rice industry body. Phka Rumduol