News / Asia

Cambodian Land Deals Raise Human Rights Concerns

Cambodian protesters from Boueng Kak lake march with a banner displaying the thumb prints of fellow land owners who have been evicted from their homes, as they demand compensation, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Cambodian protesters from Boueng Kak lake march with a banner displaying the thumb prints of fellow land owners who have been evicted from their homes, as they demand compensation, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Irwin Loy

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - A United Nations-appointed rights watchdog is calling on Cambodia to bridge the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Surya Subedi, the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, says the government must do more to ensure that marginalized groups are not suffering from the government’s practice of granting land concessions to developers.
 

Unfair practices

During a recent visit that focused on how land grants are issued to private developers, Subedi looked into allegations of rights groups who say the practice is unfair to tens of thousands of people displaced from their homes with little or no compensation.
 

Surya Subedi (L), UN special rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia looks towards Cambodian residents during his visit to Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh.Surya Subedi (L), UN special rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia looks towards Cambodian residents during his visit to Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh.
x
Surya Subedi (L), UN special rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia looks towards Cambodian residents during his visit to Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh.
Surya Subedi (L), UN special rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Cambodia looks towards Cambodian residents during his visit to Borei Keila community in Phnom Penh.
“So there seems to be a lack of transparency, due process and the communities affected have not been offered any alternatives," Subedi explained. "They have been told that so and so company will come and start bulldozing the land with a view to clearing the way for agribusiness activities or some other activities on the land. But these people who have been farming that land for generations--what are they going to do, what is their livelihoods going to be?”


Activists say the problem is exemplified in the plight of a Phnom Penh community called Borei Keila.

In 2004, the government designated the area as a social land concession to a local company. The deal was contingent on the developer building on-site housing for more than 1,700 families living in the area at the time. But the company reneged on the deal, and by the start of 2012, rights groups say almost one-quarter of the families were homeless.

Subedi, who visited the community this week, says he was shocked by what he saw.

“Indeed quite appalling conditions they have been living in. Some of them seem to have been living on top of a dump site," he said. "Basically a rubbish heap. I visited them, it was just the condition -- unacceptable. I thought it was not only a human rights matter, but also a humanitarian matter.”

Economic and land concessions

Subedi says economic and other land concessions can be a positive tool for growth in what is still one of the least developed countries in the region. But he says the government must ensure there is a public debate on how such policies are enacted.

“My concern is more to do with the procedure, rather than the need -- whether the country should grant economic land concessions or not. If it is a well thought-out policy, if the legal framework is a sound one, then the country can benefit from economic land concessions," Subedi said. "When I say the country, even the rural poor, the indigenous communities will benefit. People can benefit. We can create a win-win situation.”

This week, the government announced it would temporarily stop issuing new land concessions, though it has done little to publicly explain how the process will be improved. Subedi sees the moratorium as a positive step; the government must now show that it is serious about reforms, he says. "But it remains to be seen whether the law will be implemented appropriately. In Cambodia there are quite good laws in a number of areas, but the implementation has been a problem," he added. "I hope this particular regulation will be implemented thoroughly and properly."

Subedi says he will meet with government officials to express his concerns. His trip concludes on Friday.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs