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Gov't Efforts on Land Theft Weak, Parliamentarian Says

The government has so far done a poor job handling the growing land theft crisis, despite promises from Prime Minister Hun Sen and others to curb the practice, Eng Chhay Eang, a lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party and a member of the government's top land authority, said Monday.

Years of civil war and neglect have led to confusion of land ownership, while the poor and disempowered are routinely kicked off land to make room for development.

It is the government's responsibility to manage this crisis, but so far they have not done so, Eng Chhay Eang said, as guest on "Hello VOA."

Local authorities often collude with land thieves, at worst, and are unable to help victims, at best, forcing people to take their complaints to the prime minister or the National Assembly.

But legal owners can find recourse, Eng Chhay Eang said.

The land authority has seized about 200,000 hectares of illegally held lands, and has encouraged people to come forward with legal claims. So far, cases involving about 60,000 hectares are pending court decisions. The remainder will be kept by the government until the proper owners come forward.

This is the best the government can do so far. Broader changer, Eng Chhay Eang said, will have to come from next year's national elections.