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UN Official Calls for ‘Proper Investigation’ into Post-Election Violence

Protesters raise clenched fists with banners printed with detained activist Vorn Pao in front of the Appeals Court during a rally in Phnom Penh, file photo.
A senior UN rights official on Tuesday urged Cambodia to conduct a proper investigation into violence that has taken place since the July 2013 elections, as well as to speed up land titles for indigenous groups.

Flavia Pansieri, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, is on a five-day visit to Cambodia, looking into post-election violence that has killed at least seven people and left 23 activists facing charges of incitement.

Pansieri met with Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday, saying afterward that a “proper review of events” should take place “whenever there are confrontations.”

"Cambodia should pursue any violation through the rule of law and its commitments to international human rights standards," she said.

Pansieri also spoke at a land-titling workshop, where she urged Cambodia to protect land rights for the indigenous.

"At least 15 languages are spoken in Cambodia today, highlighting the myriad cultures the country must protect," she said.

“Land concessions are receiving more priority over communal land titles,” she said, estimating that 22 percent of the country’s land surface was taken up by concessions.

Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said Cambodia’s strategies to protect the indigenous should be speeded up. “That means they’ll have rights and power to control their lands and protect their natural resources.”

There are 95 separate indigenous groups in Cambodia, living across 15 provinces, he said. Only eight of these communities have been given land titles, he said.

Sok Theun, 33, an indigenous representative from Koh Kong province, said his community is vulnerable to evictions now that a development company has come to build a proposed dam.

“We are really afraid we’ll be evicted from our motherland,” he said. “We cannot go anywhere else.”

However, Sim Son, an adviser to the Ministry of Rural Development, said the government is currently doing its best to ensure all people, and their land, receive protection.