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Survey Finds Deep Discontent as Cambodian Land Disputes Continue

Land dispute protesters hit by water canon as they tried to block a main in Phnom Penh street, file photo.
Land dispute protesters hit by water canon as they tried to block a main in Phnom Penh street, file photo.

According to a new survey, land disputes in Cambodia lead to employment insecurity, causing poverty, food insecurity, and increasing physical and psychological insecurity.

A 110-page report called “Human Security and Land Rights in Cambodia,” which was conducted by the Cambodia Institution for Cooperation and Peace and funded by the British Embassy in Phnom Penh, found land disputes are leading to livelihood insecurity, poverty and mental suffering. Those with little or no education as well as widows are the most vulnerable victims of land grabbing in Cambodia.

The report surveyed around 400 people from communities in Phnom Penh, Kampong Chnang and Ratanakkiri province.

Pou Sovachana, the co-author of the survey and deputy director for the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said the report highlights the need for reform.

“We studied their feelings, which we couldn’t see from outside. But inside their head, they are suffering because they lost their houses and lands. Women suffer the most," he said.

Long Kim Heang, an official at House Rights Task force, who is working closely with the evicted communities in Phnom Penh, said the report accurately reflects the issues faced by land victims.

“Victims of eviction are facing poverty, they lost their houses," she said. "They face trauma and other problems such as falling into debt, the children drop out of schools etc. These are true.”

However, Phay Siphan, a spokesman at the Council of Ministers, rejects the report, saying it only represents a small part of Cambodian society, which the government already is working on.

“What they said is only trying to make noise because the government has already taken several steps to tackle [the issue]," he said. "There are several cases in which NGOs have created such a figure or report to criticize the government and distort the facts about Cambodia.”

The survey found that most expressed a desire for the government to eliminate land disputes and set a clear policy to address the interests of its own people rather than investors.