More than 300 representatives from 19 provinces urged government agencies and offices to resolve disputes in more than 700,000 hectares of land, complaining their daily existence was threatened by their displacement.
“We are losing land, forests and fisheries that are important sources of our daily livelihoods, because of some private companies and powerful officials,” said Hor Sam Art, a representative of family in Battambang province.
The group, from 29 different communities, filed a joint complaint to the offices of the prime minister, the Council of Ministers, the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution, and the Ministry of Land Management on Tuesday.
The complaint included 119,218 signatures, from disputes in 164 villages in provinces ranging across the entire country.
“We want the government to know our sufferings, difficulties and needs,” Hor Sam Art said. “We know that we are making difficulty to the government in the complaints. We have made many complaints with local government, but it did not find a resolution.”
The complaints included pictures of land dispute locations and reports of shooting injuries and death, beatings, detention, imprisonment of dissenters and the clearing of houses and crops.
“We request the government to quickly suspend or end the new concession contracts and development projects affecting the livelihoods of the communities, as well as put an end to threats and arrests and release prisoners,” the group said in a joint statement.
“We do not have any intention of disgracing the government, but we have no choice, because in the past we’ve protested and complained again and again, but we have not found a resolution,” said Seng Sok Heng, a representative from Banteay Meanchey province.
Ny Chakya, chief investigator for the right group Licadho, said the group would follow whether the government can find soltuions.
“Providing economic land concessions to private companies in the wrong direction affects people’s family economic development and jeopardizes the government’s poverty reduction plan,” he said.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the complaints will be solved “in conformity with the law.”
The government reviews the laws for land property of ethnic minorities, he said, and if it finds companies breaking the law, it ends the contract with the company.
“Now we’ve ordered the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the concerned provincial authorities to investigates the complaints of the communities,” he said.