In the Media
Land grabs in Cambodia
July 18, 2012
The New York Times
An anti-logging activist is murdered, a teenage girl is shot and killed by police during a forcible eviction, 13 women are sentenced to up to two-and-a-half years in prison simply for holding a protest on land from which they’ve been expropriated. These are recent examples of the all-too-familiar human rights abuses that result from the Cambodian government’s disastrous land policy.
Investment in Cambodia’s agriculture sector is long overdue. But instead of passing reforms that would help the country’s many farmers and villagers better use their land — 80 percent of the total population is rural — the government has signed off almost 11,600 square miles of Cambodia’s arable land to investors, including major Chinese and Vietnamese companies and local firms with ties to the governing Cambodian People’s Party.
That’s more than two-thirds of all arable land in Cambodia, according to a senior adviser at the human rights group Licadho. What’s more, according to Amnesty International, in 2008 some 150,000 Cambodians were at risk of being evicted, meaning that some 420,000 Cambodians have been affected by evictions since 2003.
Farmers only become aware of the transactions when construction companies come in to remove them, bulldozers and security guards in tow. There are also environmental consequences. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are being turned into rubber plantations. The pristine forests of Botum Sakor National Park, in southwest Cambodia, are being destroyed so that a Chinese company can build a gambling and luxury resort. Prey Lang, an extensive evergreen and semi-evergreen forest in northern Cambodia, is under threat of deforestation as luxury wood is being cut down illegally and exported to Vietnam, sometimes with the assistance of Cambodian soldiers.
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Keywords: Asia, Cambodia, land concession, Land grab, land tenure