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National Assembly Begins Expropriation Debate

Parliamentarians on Monday began reviewing a controversial draft law that will allow the government to seize private land for development purposes, while opponents say the law will legitimize land-grabs.

The draft law, comprised of 8 chapters and 39 articles, allows state seizure of real estate for the public interest. Private land can be taken for the construction of an airport, bridge or energy grid extension, for example. The law also requires reasonable compensation.

“This law is a base for the government to continue to rebuild and develop infrastructure, waterways, land and air,” said Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the ruling Cambodian People's Party. The law will also encourage investment, he said.

Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the Sam Rainsy Party, said the time was not right to have such a law, with thousands of Cambodians victims of land-grabs and forced evictions.

“It will make more victims,” he said. “We will not raise our hands to pass [the law]. Although it stipulates compensation, it doesn’t work according to the market.”

Civil society groups have criticized the draft law on similar grounds and have requested lawmakers to allow their input.