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Military Land Grabs Rising: Group

Military involvement in land grabs increased three-fold in 2008, affecting 60,000 families and tens of thousands of hectares of farmland nationwide, a rights group said Tuesday.

In its annual report, Adhoc said 125 land grabs were undertaken by military officials in 2008, up from 40 cases in 2007.

“The land issue became much worse in 2008 compared to 2007,” Adhoc President Thun Saray said. “Our human rights organization is very concerned.”

The number of killings in land disputes went up from two in 2007 to eight in 2008, the group said.

Arrests and detention of land-grab protesters also increased, from 139 in 350 cases in 2007 to 150 in 306 cases, while more than 100 land protesters evaded arrest warrants.

The group also reported threats against 164 activists helping victims of land grabs.

Adhoc’s chief investigator, Ny Chakrya, said at least 62,500 families lost land to military seizures in the 125 cases in 2008. Each case involved between 200 hectares and 500 hectares of land.

“Most of the cases occurred in the provinces of Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri and Kratie,” he said.

Newly appointed Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Gen. Pol Sareoun said Tuesday the law would handle the problem.

“I don’t know who is grabbing whose land,” he said. “Sometimes in some places, the people grab military land, and in some other places, the military grabs the people’s land.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith dismissed the report.

“The government has not turned a deaf ear on this problem,” he said. “Up to now, the government has resolved many land disputes. In 100 land disputes, the government resolved more than 30 to 40 cases. But we cannot solve all the land disputes completely.”