Cambodian CSOs offer recommendations for Land Law revision

In early February 2024, the NGO Forum on Cambodia received an invitation from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC) to provide feedback and comments on the new draft Land Law by the 16th of February. Although there had been prior information about the Ministry’s intention to revise the Land Law of 2001, no roadmap for this significant legislative update had been provided. Therefore, the civil society had a mere two weeks to organize consultations to provide feedback on the new 69 pages – 199 articles draft law. MRLG agreed to support NGOF in organizing consultations within its CSO networks, including a dedicated hybrid event on February 12th to collect suggestions. Open Development Cambodia with the support of ALIGN project organized a similar consultation in Siem Reap and an expert meeting on 15 February. Comments and recommendations were compiled and shared with MLMUPC on Friday, the 16th.

H.E. Theng Chansangva, Secretary of State of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction of Cambodia, speaking at the consultation workshop for CSO inputs to the draft land law in December 27, 2023

Among many other comments, the following major concerns stand out:

  • the absence of a policy presenting the intentions and priorities of the government in revising the law makes it difficult to interpret and understand the reasons behind the changes in comparison to the 2001 Land Law.
  • the lack of a road map and the short timeframe for consultations hampers the capacity of the civil society to engage with the process and provide significant and constructive inputs to the draft law. Sufficient time should also be allocated to gather evidence from the ground and identify the main issues that should be considered in the revision of the law.
  • A rapid analysis of the law indicates that indigenous community rights and the recognition of customary tenure rights in forest areas have been further restricted contrary to the recommendations from the ASEAN Guidelines on Recognition of Customary Rights in Forested Landscapes, in particular in terms of indigenous community land titles covering reserved forest areas.
  • Some important provisions on Economic Land Concessions regarding maximum area and duration as well as the timeframe for developing the concession have been removed.
  • The draft law is “gender-blind” and does not address gender inequalities.
  • There have been significant issues in implementing the 2001 Land Law, particularly regarding the protection of rights in practice, which are not addressed by the draft law. The Land Law also does not deal with the occupation of land that occurred after 2001.

By sharing their comments, civil society and indigenous organizations hope that the government will consider further collaborations and discussions so that the new law will truly support the socio-economic development of Cambodia inclusive of all communities.

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