A Country for sale: The land concessions in Cambodia and a backfire of history
In a secluded area in the northern region of Cambodia, a monk, wearing a bright orange robe was reciting a poem of a different topic. He was asking his people to reunite, and take the rice fields that belong to the people of Cambodia. He was stating this in traditional Khmer language. Just nearby, there are 20 village people, who do now know what they are supposed to do. They were not anymore working for the meager job of picking mushrooms. Lun Sovath, the Buddhist Monk reveals what is actually happening in the background of the country’ facade. He calls this “economic land concessions.” and truth beholds, the lush fields once used by a village have now been barred and the villagers were removed from their homes. The sad thing is that there is no compensation given to them. The place is used as a sugar plantation by an investor from Thailand.
This is a new system and program of land concessions done all across Cambodia to develop the small economy of the nation and to be able to catch on to the well developed countries in Asia. Cambodia is one of the impoverished nations in Asia and they have not been able to recover from the civil wars that happened after the end of the tyranny of the Khmer Rouge around the 70s. Now, the lands are being leased to various private corporations and investors. One third of these investors are from other countries. The lease gives “hope” that there will be jobs. Undeniably, Cambodia is slowly rising with its agriculture. In 2005, already 15% of the lands have been leased to these investors.
Sadly, there are reports that land grabs that sometimes lead to violent events happen in various locations. There are natives who experienced such torments when their houses were lit and sent to burn without them being able to salvage their items and rendering them homeless. There were reports that the military was acting on behalf of these investors and they were forcing people out for quite some time already. Most of these investors are hush hush about these allegations and would not accept calls or interviews regarding the matter.
Some of these people tried to plea to the government but they were instead arrested for the reasons of illegal farming. Man or woman, pregnant or not, it did not matter. The poor were not given the chance to speak on their behalf. This series of alleged “illegal farming” accusations have been possible due to the Khmer Rogue empire that forbid the ownership of lands. The land titles of the original land owners were destroyed and so the civil wars started to break out, and have happened since then. The question now is if these foreign investors taking advantage of what the Khmer Rouge has done in the past? Matt Rendall, a land lawyer who helped in writing the Land Law of 2001 geared towards investors and economic growth, says that these investors are caught in something that they have not done.
According to Rendall and other lawyers, it is most beneficial if the government would give out the land documents to the poor people. This will give more due process than to be ousted without basis for an act that was done years ago. Sadly, the government and other organizations taking part of this plan are moving too slow to the fast increasing number of people ousted and left without homes and jobs for not having documentation.