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May 04, 2007

Addressing Violations of Indigenous Peoples' Land Rights in Cambodia


In Cambodia, the Rule of Law Initiative is addressing a growing problem – violations of indigenous people's land rights. As the economy revives after years of war and uncertainty, indigenous people are being evicted from their land to make way for development projects through large land concessions to private companies.

One case in 2004 involves the village of Kong Yu in Ratanakkiri province, where local officials illegally acquired land from villagers.

On January 23, the USAID-funded NGO Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) joined other Cambodian NGOs and Kong Yu villagers to file a case in the Ratanakkiri court, seeking to cancel the land deal and prosecute those responsible for it. CLEC successfully filed the case, and also held a widely-publicized press conference to ensure that the event did not go unnoticed. This concerted effort by the villagers of Kong Yu and NGOs to reclaim their land was a milestone, and an important step forward in collaboration among Cambodian NGOs.

For three years CLEC has been a key partner of the USAID-funded Program on Rights and Justice (PRAJ) in Cambodia, implemented for USAID by the East-West Management Institute (EWMI), and the Rule of Law Initiative. During this time, CLEC has developed a ground-breaking project, the Public Interest Legal Advocacy Project (PILAP). PILAP's aim is to file lawsuits that have an impact beyond the bounds of a particular case. When PILAP agreed to take on the Kong Yu village case it had already successfully handled several difficult land cases, including forced evictions from valuable land sites in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

Now CLEC and its local partners are waiting to test justice at the Ratanakiri court.

For more information, please contact Cambodia Advocacy Advisor Brian Rohan, at <[email protected]>