A leading Cambodian human rights group says more than half a million people have been affected by land disputes in the country over the last 14 years.
Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for Licadho, said Thursday that a “wave” of land grabs has continued this year, impacting families in nearly all provinces, including disputes between villagers and development companies or loggers.
“Before releasing the report, we conducted detailed research. The main point is that starting from early this year, land disputes have occurred again. That’s the reason why we are concerned and issued this report; to remind the government to put extra mechanisms in place to find solutions for the people," said Ath.
The government has rejected those figures. Sar Sovann, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Land Management, told reporters Thursday the report “does not reflect reality.” There are only 3,000 to 4,000 sites that “have problems,” he said.
“The Ministry does not recognize this figure. How can we recognize it if it is not true? The answer is that we have three or four conflicts out of 1,000 land titles," said Sovann.
As he spoke Thursday, some 300 Kouy ethnic minority villagers protested in Preah Vihear province, saying two Chinese companies were clearing their land.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.