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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs