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Cambodia: Corruption & land grabs affect the poor

UN expert finds corruption and suspect land grabs affecting the poor in Cambodia

Large-scale land grabbing in Cambodia, inadequate legal protection for tenants, poor water and sanitation, and bias against women and indigenous people are among the major issues cited by a United Nations human rights expert on housing after a visit to the South-East Asian country.

The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for the UN Commission on Human Rights (OHCHR), Miloon Kothari, also called for the Government's assurance that the people of Cambodia will be housed in accordance with international human rights and asked for a moratorium on land swaps.

Noting a "significant incidence" of corruption and lack of transparency was "exacerbating land disputes and skewing land ownership patterns to the disadvantage of both the rural and the urban poor," Mr. Kothari nevertheless gave the Government good marks for "some positive trends and best practices observed," including consultations with urban poor about their housing concerns.

But overall, the preliminary findings highlighted a large number of potentially illegal land swaps taking place without public participation, a land management system that did not track land records, and a weak justice system that did not adequately address land law, allowing forced evictions of suspect legality.

It also found open-air sewage and garbage spread around houses in poor areas, lack of access to water, sanitation, and electricity forcing villagers to turn to expensive private suppliers, and increasing economic and military acquisitions of communal lands by individuals that had seriously impacted the living conditions of indigenous populations and women.

During his almost one month trip which ended this September, Mr. Kothari met with numerous government officials, local human rights groups, and non-governmental organizations, (NGOs) and visited first hand the Battambang, Beantey Meanchey, Siem Riep, and Kompong Speu provinces to gain an idea of urban and rural housing conditions.

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