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2012 Arrests in Land Disputes Highest in Five Years

Boeung Kak lake resident Yorm Bopha arrives for a hearing in the Appeal Court in the capital city Phnom Penh November 7, 2012.
PHNOM PENH - Some 200 people were arrested in land disputes in Cambodia in 2012, local human rights groups reported Wednesday.

That’s nearly twice the number for 2011, and is the highest number in five years, according to the rights group Adhoc, underscoring continued use of the courts for the prosecution of activists and villagers caught up in land grabs, forced evictions and other disputes as Cambodia continues to develop.

“More than 1,000 people have been persecuted and arrested in land disputes since 2007,” said Chan Saveth, a senior investigator for Adhoc. “The increase in the amount of arrests is because old issues have not been solved for most of the cases.”

Ongoing urban and rural development have meant an increase in the number of forced evictions and land disputes across the country, from residential and commercial developments in cities to economic land concessions in the countryside. The resulting disputes have become a nettling problem for national and local authorities, with demonstrations increasing and often leading to violent clashes with police or other authorities.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said authorities are working to provide proper land titles and that overall development is good for Cambodia.

“Millions of people benefit from this policy,” he said. “Patience is needed.”