Country Report Cambodia February 2010

Economic policy: The Senate approves a law on land seizures

The Senate (the upper house of parliament) has voted 50-2 in support of legislation setting out rules applying to land seizures by the government. Approval of the Law on Expropriation came in mid-January, at a time when Cambodia is experiencing what non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have described as an epidemic of unregulated evictions. In June a local rights group, Licadho, claimed that 10% of the 1.3m-strong population of the capital, Phnom Penh, had been affected by such evictions since 1991. Once the legislation has been signed into law by King Norodom Sihamoni, the government will form an expropriation committee to determine whether each eviction meets the legal requirements, such as being in the public interest. A valuation committee will determine the level of compensation to be offered to residents who are evicted.

Supporters of the law say that it will regulate land seizures, helping Cambodia to achieve economic development based on the rule of law. However, critics say that the terms of the law are too vague. According to Yeng Virak, the director of the Community Legal Education Centre, an NGO, the new law extends protection only to Cambodians with land titles, while the 2001 land law gives legal residency to any Cambodian who has lived on a plot of land for more than five years, regardless of whether they have a title. Such inconsistencies could lead to even more evictions of questionable legality.

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