extractive industries

Description
Synonyms
agrofuel industries
palm oil industries
mining
Date of publication
December 2000
Geographical focus

Land is the most important productive asset in agrarian societies such as Cambodia’s. Throughout Cambodian history, land ownership rights have varied with changes in government. In the period before French colonisation (pre-1863), when all land belonged to the sovereign, people were freely allowed to till unoccupied land and could cultivate as much as they liked. With French colonisation, a property-rights system was introduced in 1884. After Cambodia gained independence from France in 1953, a Western-style land ownership system continued until 1975, when the Khmer Rouge seized power and eliminated all private property rights. Land ownership rights were reintroduced in 1989, following the failure of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 and ten years of unsuccessful collectivised production. Within ten years of the reintroduction of private ownership and the redistribution of land, land issues have become one of the most sensitive economic, social, and political issues in Cambodia, demanding urgent solution. In the absence of comprehensive land-related data, this study extensively analyses secondary data and primary data from four large-scale surveys to better understand the magnitude of current land issues. Based on this analysis, it appears that most of Cambodians own at least some land, but only a small proportion of the population has official land titles. Over 70 to 80 percent of the total rural population possesses agricultural land acquired in different ways (government distribution, gifts from relatives/friends, purchase, or clearance of unused land), but only 1 percent has legal title to their land. The average size of agricultural holdings in Cambodia is quite small (only about 1 hectare per family) and distribution is highly unequal. Female-headed households generally have smaller holdings than male-headed households. About 40 to 50 percent of the landless and marginal landholders possess only about 10 to 15 percent of all agricultural land in rural areas. The estimated Gini coefficients of land concentration range from 0.47 to 0.66 for the different surveys that target different population groups. Even though only a very small proportion of the population has official title to their land, people have been actively transferring land (their only productive asset) on the market. Not only has private property changed hands, but also common property, such as forestry and fishery resources (state property), has been actively transferred to private use as concessions or for long-term investment. In the concluding chapter, the study draws some policy implications and proposes some suggestions for the improvement of future studies of land issues. The suggestions include questions to be answered in future research, as well as specific items to include in future survey questionnaires.

Date of publication
December 2004
Geographical focus

ABSTRACTED FROM THE MISSION STATEMENT: The primary purpose of his mis,sion was for the Special Representative to update himself on the human rights situation in Cambodia for his report to the 61 st session of the Commission on Human Rights. He paid particular attention to the management of land and natural resources, the continuing problem of impunity, and to corruption which impacts negatively on the realisation of a range of human rights and distorts the allocation of economic resources so as to further exacerbate existing inequalities. He examined issues of justice sector reform, freedoms of association and assembly, indigenous land rights and issues relating to the proposed trials of senior Khmer Rouge leaders. He reiterated his call for the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the deplorable phenomenon of mob killings. He visited, in the company of representatives of the Governor, the former theatre "Hamacheat" in central Phnom Penh where over one hundred families live. He was shocked by the inhumane conditions he found. Mr. Leuprecht releases today a report on land concessions for economic purposes from a human rights perspective. In his foreword to the report, he states that the policies are wrong, that companies have been given rights over land that are very similar to ownership, and yet they have little or no regard for the welfare of the people, and contribute little to state revenue. The Special Representative is calling for full disclosure of information concerning all concessions in Cambodia, including economic concessions. The aim of the report is to contribute to better public understanding of the issues and to help bring about the changes in policy and practice that are necessary for the sake of Cambodia, its rural poor and for future generations

Date of publication
December 2007
Geographical focus

Over 943,069 hectares of land in rural Cambodia have been granted to private companies as economic land concessions, for the development of agro-industrial plantations. Thirty-six of these 59 concessions have been granted in favour of foreign business interests or prominent political and business figures. These statistics exclude smaller economic land concessions granted at the provincial level, for which information on numbers and ownership has not been disclosed. Since 1996, successive Special Representatives of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia have expressed concern about the impact of economic land concessions on the human rights and livelihoods of rural communities. The concerns raised over the past decade remain the same today. At the root of these concerns is poor enforcement of and compliance with the requirements of the Land Law and Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions, which govern the grant and management of economic land concessions. Essential pre-conditions to the grant of concessions, such as the registration of land as state private land and conduct of public consultations and environmental and social impact assessments, have not been met. Likewise, restrictions on the size and ownership of economic land concessions have not been properly enforced. Individuals have used different companies to acquire interests in multiple concessions, contrary to the Land Law, and to obtain adjacent concessions for the same purposes, circumventing the 10,000 hectare size limit. Concessions have been granted over forested areas and former forest concessions, contrary to the Forestry Law and forestry regulations. Despite these breaches of the law, there has been no systematic review of concessions, as required by the Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions. Further, the judicial system has failed to uphold the rights of affected communities and respect for the law, and to hold companies accountable for their actions. As a result, economic land concessions continue to impact negatively upon the human rights and livelihoods of rural communities, who depend upon land and forest resources for their survival. Commonly-cited concerns are encroachment on agricultural and grazing land, and loss of livelihoods; encroachment on forested areas and loss of access to non-timber forest products; impact on areas of cultural and spiritual significance; displacement; and environmental destruction. The report raises particular concerns about the impact of economic land and other concessions on indigenous communities, whose rights to collective ownership of land are protected under Cambodian law. The alienation of indigenous land through the grant of concessions is undermining the ability of indigenous communities to register their collective ownership of traditional lands, and enforce their rights to land under the Land Law. Instead of promoting rural development and poverty reduction, economic land concessions have compromised the rights and livelihoods of rural communities in Cambodia. To promote the equitable and sustainable management of Cambodia’s land and natural resources for the benefit of all Cambodians, the Special Representative has made a series of recommendations relating to the implementation of the Land Law and Sub-Decree on Economic Land Concessions; protection and implementation of indigenous rights to land; access to information on all economic land concessions and beneficiaries of these concessions; and legal enforcement and access to an effective remedy for affected communities. It is also recommended that alternative agricultural models be considered, prioritizing smallholder agriculture and community-based initiatives. The recommendations are set out in full at the end of the report.

Date of publication
December 2003
Geographical focus

ABSTRACTED FROM THE INTRODUCTION: My focus in this paper is on the kinds of development pursued by state agencies and large international aid organisations, and speci- fically, the displacement effects of what I am calling the new land tenure reform agenda. I will illustrate my arguments through an account of the Land and Forest Allocation Programme in Laos.

Date of publication
December 2003
Geographical focus

The dramatic increase in migration and settlement in several areas where indigenous people live is leading to a multitude of problems for the original inhabitants. Lowland immigrants are taking advantage of the vulnerable situation of indigenous people, and the absence of regulations, to lay claim to the people’s traditional lands. Illegal land transactions are taking place at an alarming rate without thought of the problems that would result from widespread landlessness among indigenous peoples or the impact this is likely to have on the remaining forested areas.

Date of publication
December 2006
Geographical focus

Land is the repository of memory and keeps traces of the past in the absence of a strong written tradition. It is perceived as an open book from which anyone can read and learn about local history: place names, old roads, legends and stories attached to places. For local people, bulldozing the landscape is seen as erasing their history, and disturbing social organisations and traditions.[1] In Cambodia--as in many other countries--land is an extremely important economic resource and asset. Land is livelihood. But equally, land is valued as an emblem of rootedness, belonging and stability, and is widely regarded as the very basis of social organisation in the country. In fact for most Cambodians, land is considered to be the foundation of society and life. A family's attachment to its piece of land has particular significance in a society that over the past hundred years has hurtled through successive periods of civil conflict, war, massive displacement, forced collectivisation and genocide, and finally into an unregulated, capitalist, market economy. Today, at least a third of Cambodia's peoples—rural and urban--are being systematically alienated from their lands, homes and livelihoods. In many instances communities are losing lands and access to natural resources because of economic and demographic pressures. But equally, people are being dispossessed from their lands by those with political power and money. This is made possible by a combination of factors: economic opportunism by the country's elites and their external allies and their impunity from legal action; ambiguous land laws; a judicial system that is hostage to political and financial power and unable to protect the rights of citizens; short-sighted economic development plans that seek to usher in private capital at any cost, and; shocking apathy by bilateral and multilateral donors and creditors, who are willing to turn a blind eye to massive land and resource thefts. This paper attempts to provide an overview of the growing crisis of land and resource alienation in Cambodia. The paper is based on secondary data, travel and observation in the Cambodian countryside, and personal interviews with representatives from rural communities, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and research organisations.

Date of publication
December 2009
Geographical focus

This document is prepared as an Annex to the Parallel Report and focuses on land and housing rights issues. Violations of housing and land rights are widely viewed as the major human rights concern in Cambodia. This document is intended to assist the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) in its review of Cambodia during its 42nd Session, 4 to 22 May 2009. The document was prepared for the purpose of providing recommendations to the State party and other actors as well as facilitating civil society input into this procedure. A number of organisations were involved in the preparation of this Annex, including Borderlands, Bridges Across Borders Southeast Asia (BABSEA), Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO), Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE), Community Legal Education Center (CLEC), Housing Rights Task Force (HRTF), Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) and the NGO Forum on Cambodia. In addition, the recommendations in this report were developed following consultations with broader civil society groups including networks of community activists. The document focuses in particular on the right to adequate housing in Cambodia, as well as related human rights concerns. Matters addressed include (i) forced evictions; (ii) gaps in the legislative and policy framework on evictions, and a lack of implementation of existing laws and regulations; (iii) the absence of legal security of tenure for many households and obstacles to accessing title; (iv) concerns regarding the donor funded titling system: LMAP and LASSP; (v) land disputes and concerns regarding the efficacy, independence and transparency of dispute resolution bodies; (vi) displacement and other adverse impacts resulting from economic land concessions and mining; (vii) concerns regarding land rights of indigenous peoples; and (viii) the persecution of housing rights defenders.

Date of publication
December 2009
Geographical focus

ABSTRACTED FROM THE CONCLUSION: The absence of secure tenure and resulting forced evictions represent clear violations of Article 11 of the Covenant with respect to the right to adequate housing by the Cambodian Government. The absence of a comprehensive legislative framework and the failure of other mechanisms to guarantee tenure security, including an independent and effective court system, constitute a failure of the Government to fulfil its Covenant obligations. The arbitrary and often violent evictions that occur in the absence of suitable procedural protections such as genuine consultation, the provision of adequate compensation and the opportunity for legal remedies, constitute a violation of the immediate duty to prevent illegal forced evictions. Furthermore, the Government is failing in its obligation to protect against forced evictions by third parties, including private individuals and companies. The poor conditions at resettlement sites constitute a failure by the Government to fulfil minimum core obligations of the components of right to adequate housing for those subject to resettlement.

Date of publication
December 2009
Geographical focus

ABSTRACTED FROM THE INTRODUCTION: There is little evidence... that ordinary Cambodians are benefiting from the mass confiscation of their land. On the contrary, those who are displaced are explicitly excluded from any benefits, and instead find themselves facing loss of income, poor health, lack of education and other dire consequences that are directly opposed to the government’s public commitment to development, expressed through targets such as the “Millennium Development Goals” (MDG). There is no sign of the Cambodian authorities slowing down the pace of land grabbing and forced evictions, usually committed in flagrant contravention of their own laws. Economic Land Concessions continue to be granted in unlawful secrecy, concealed from the public, and sometimes in sizes far exceeding the legal limit of 10,000 hectares.

Date of publication
December 2009
Geographical focus

As shown in this report, harassment of local activists in Cambodia, including defenders of the right to housing, is widespread. Cambodia’s rich and powerful are increasingly abusing the criminal justice system to silence communities standing up against land concessions or business deals affecting the land they live on or cultivate. Many poor and marginalized communities are living in fear of the institutions created to protect them, in particular the police and the courts. As forced evictions increase, public space for discussing them is shrinking. Rights Razed noted that around 150,000 Cambodians were at risk of eviction. This conservative estimate has since been widely quoted in the international media. For the most part, however, the individual experiences of those affected go unreported. This book is about the people behind those numbers. [This book] shows how people living in poverty are routinely excluded from decisions affecting them. So-called “development” often happens to their detriment and at their expense, rather than in consultation with them.

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