Establishing and legally protecting property rights is a significant issue in Cambodia. The situation stems from the abolition of private property during the Khmer Rouge regime and the subsequent destruction of property records and the displacement of people from their traditional land both under the Khmer Rouge and the following civil war period. Cambodia is now seeking to actively develop its land through the granting of “Economic Land Concessions” (ELCs). Given uncertainties over property titles, this often leads to disputes over ownership, often between wealthy investors and poor subsistence farming communities.
LAC’s Land Law & Natural Resources Program works to protect the interests of poor landholders in land disputes associated with the granting of economic land concessions. Since 2012, LAC has been broadening its focus to also consider cases involving environmental law, and the misuse of natural resources including forests, rivers and fisheries. The objective of the Land Law program is to extend legal representation, advice and information to disadvantaged groups involved in land disputes and relocations in provinces with a focus on two types of cases: high profile cases, such as land disputes between powerful, wealthy persons and poor communities and cases which have become criminalized because the judge has charged the disadvantaged communities with a criminal charge such as trespassing or illegal destruction of property.
The Land Law Program is grateful for the support it receives from GIZ. During the last six months of 2013, the law program represented communities and assisted the submission of a petition to government to get land titles. Furthermore, LAC lawyers also conducted training to communities who were evicted or whose land is affected by ELCs or subject to future eviction.