Newly appointed Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara last week established a working group comprising 27 four-man teams tasked with hastening the resolution of land disputes.
According to a letter issued by the Ministry of Land Management on Friday, each team will be assigned three disputes to bring to a close, reporting the results back to the ministry.
Secretary of State for the Ministry of Land Management Sarun Rithea yesterday insisted that the creation of the teams was not indicative of flaws in existing dispute resolution mechanisms.
Civil society members working on land issues, meanwhile, were tentatively hopeful that the new teams might bring meaningful results.
Rights group Adhoc’s head of land rights Latt Ky said he hoped it was a harbinger of good things to come from Sophara, who took office as minister of land management at the start of April.
“I think it’s a good initiative by the new minister of land management, he’s trying to settle land disputes in Cambodia. On the other hand, it’s a good commitment from him to take action. It’s my impression that this is a good thing,” Ky said, adding that he will “wait and see” what comes of the new groups.
“The problem of land disputes remains year to year, again and again,” he continued. “I think that for a fair solution that’s good for the victims [we need] community participation and the observation of NGOs working with the community, because NGOs play a very important role.”
Asked whether Adhoc had been invited to collaborate with the ministry’s new teams, he replied: “Everybody knows Adhoc is working on legal advice and assistance to land disputes, so sometimes we know the way to provide a fair solution to the community. So if the ministry is calling, we will have a collaboration.”
Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy, however, sounded a more cautious note.
“Let’s see what can happen. If they’re serious we want to see a real result from that. There has been so many committees established, but we hope that this one will make a difference,” Vuthy said. “So far there’s not been anyone good [working on the issue].”
“Land disputes are a very sensitive issue, it needs high level intervention and political will,” he continued.
“The prime minister has been talking a lot. Different ministries have been supporting what the prime minister said, but let’s see. It’s been very slow.”