Tens of thousands of families have been affected by dozens of land disputes over the last four years, the Cambodian Center for Human Rights reported Monday.
More than 47,000 families have been embroiled in 223 land disputes, the center reported. Nearly 80 land cases involved government land concessions that affected more than 30,000 families.
Often, the rule of law was not applied in the cases, leaving many families poorer, the report said.
Land disputes have become an increasingly thorny issue for Cambodian authorities, leading to violent demonstrations that have blocked national roads, are held outside courts or municipal buildings and have led to the detention of many civic representatives.
Chor Chanthyda, a project coordinator for the center, said economic concessions have been granted nationwide, but the problems are concentrated in resource-rich provinces like Kampong Speu, Kratie, Mondolkir and Ratanakkiri.
Under the concessions, families face the loss of their land and the threat of violence or court action if they protest, she said.
“They face poverty because they have no farmland for crops,” she said.
The government has granted concessions to 222 private companies, mostly from China, South Korea and Vietnam, since 2005, said Uch Leng, a project officer for the rights group Adhoc.
“The private companies and the government don’t offer appropriate compensation [to villagers] and don’t take care of their livelihoods,” he said. “On the contrary, people who are affected fall into poverty, and the private companies that come to develop do not improve people’s lives.”
Government spokesman Ek Tha said there is no government policy to “ill treat people.”
“We have a policy to help people improve their lives,” he said. “We think of people’s well being and suffering.”
The CCHR report recommends collaborative, participatory approaches in conjunction with rights groups and villagers, as well as improved local communication, to mitigate problems.