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Land Disputes Affected Hundreds of Thousands of People, Report Says

Sam Souen, an 86 year-old Cambodian woman, holds a banner asking Prime Minister Hun Sen, seen in photo at left, to help solve the problem of land grabbing, which reads "We have been victimized by land grabbing in Banteay Meanchey province".
Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected by land disputes, including the rural and urban poor, a new report says.

Issued Thursday by the rights group Adhoc, the new study found that 770,000 people, or 6 percent of the population, have in some way been affected by land disputes since 2000.

Victims of such disputes face injustice, the loss of homes and forest and substandard conditions in relocation sites, the report says.

Meanwhile, some 2 million hectares have been given over to economic land concessions across the country. Most affected are the provinces of Preah Vihear, Siem Reap and Ratanakkiri.

Thun Saray, president of Adhoc, said some disputes have been arbitrated, but resolutions tend to favor “only the rich or powerful men or private companies.”

Government officials say they are trying to keep up with the problem.

“We solved many cases… and we reduced disputes,” said Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, a spokesman for the Ministry of Urbanization and Construction.

But disputes keep rising. Adhoc said disputes increased nearly 50 percent from 2012 to 2013, while 2014 looks to be a record-setting year.