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Rights Group Reports ‘Surge’ in Cambodia Land Disputes

FILE - Remnants of a forest are seen cut down for a land concession in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia, Aug. 26 2014. (Nov Povleakhena/VOA Khmer)

A Cambodian rights group says the number of land dispute cases its offices handled last year has grown.

In a statement Thursday, Licadho said more than 10,000 complaints involving nearly 50,000 individuals were registered with the group's offices. That is up from about 3,500 complaints in 2013 and more than 5,600 in 2012.

Am Samath, chief technical investigator for Licadho, said corruption and a non-independent judicial system has led to the problem.

“If the land issue grows viral, some day there will be a land reform revolution,” he said.

He added that the numbers come from only 13 of Cambodia's 24 provinces where Licadho has offices.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan disputed the numbers, saying that according to official records, the government has reduced the number of land issues in the country from 2,000 cases to only 300.

He accused Am Samath of trying to provoke political unrest.

“We’ve noted that he acts as an agent who is pushing for a color revolution. For instance he exaggerated the figures of those who are affected by land issues. It is beyond the truth that we have documented at the Council of Ministers," he said.

Cambodia has a long history of officials and connected individuals accused of unlawfully taking land from the poor with little or no compensation.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.