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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cambodia clears up voter list for general election in 2008

The Cambodian National Election Committee (NEC) has started to clear up the 2007 voters' list for the general election in 2008, local media reported Thursday.

The clearing-up of the voters' list aimed at checking up the real figure of Cambodian voters in the 2008 election, Khon Koemono, vice president of the NEC's public information unit, was quoted by the Raksmey Kampuchea Daily as saying.

"We have to check voters' list and voters' registration from now to August 2007," he said.

The NEC also would like to appeal all political parties and NGOs to observe the process of the clearing-up of voters in order to have clear and fair figures, he added.

According to a NEC press release about the commune councils election on April 1, only around 70 percent of the over 7 million Cambodian voters went to vote.

Cambodia is expected to hold the next general election on July 27, 2008, it said.

Source: Xinhua
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CAMBODIA: Human cost in development relocations

Cambodia's international donors have pledged $US690 million in aid to the impoverished nation over the next year. The pledge came after the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, told the meeting he would get 'in touch' with the fight against corruption and land disputes. But his commitment has not impressed the human rights organisations that work with Cambodia's poorest populations, who say donors should demand actions and not words.

Presenter/Interviewer: Bill Bainbridge
Speakers: Kong Nai, Cha Pei master and evictee; Naly Pilorge, director, Licadho; Ou Virak, director, Cambodian Centre for Human Rights

BAINBRIDGE: Human rights organisation, Licadho, filmed Nai's story. Their director, Naly Pilorge, says land grabbing in Cambodia has exploded in recent years.

PILORGE: It's often done with very little notice, no participation from the communities, and often very violently with the use of weapons and machinery and often the people that are doing the evictions are company guards usually with the authorities, whether the village chief or riot police.

BAINBRIDGE: Cambodia's economy is booming. According to the International Monetary Fund it grew at 10.4 per cent last year and should grow at around nine per cent this year and land values have tripled in the past two years. That's led developers to try to lock up valuable parcels of land.

PILORGE: These evictions are done for development puposes, however, what we see is often there's no development. Fences are constructed but there's no development for years and years.

BAINBRIDGE: The Cambodian government typically provides land on the outskirts of town as compensation for those who are moved. But Cambodian Centre for Human Rights director, Ou Virak, says that land is totally inadequate.

VIRAK: For the people who have been relocated a while back for the community it's usually non-existent. They don't stay in the relocation site, these people are being pushed to a place where they cannot help their families or make a living. This is one of the reasons we think it's such a disaster.

BAINBRIDGE: In one case more than a thousand people were forced out of their homes to a relocation site a year ago. The government said they were squatters and the land was needed for development. But 12 months on the land has not been developed and Ou Virak says the site is virtually uninhabited. Ou Virak says the coveted real estate usually ends up in the hands of Cambodia's political elite.

VIRAK: In all of these land deals pretty much if you dig down deep enough you'll notice there's a link not just to any government but to a very, very few high ranking officials in the top level of the government and particularly the Prime Minister.

BAINBRIDGE: Under current Cambodian law anyone who has occupied land peaceably for five years has ownership rights over it but NGOs worry a new sub-decree the government is developing with the assistance of the Asian Development Bank will legitimise the land theft. Ou Virak says Cambodia's international donors are sending the wrong signal by increasing the amount of aid they provide the country.

VIRAK: You know I think there must be more pressure and I think that the donor community who are supposedly involved in promoting democratic principles should follow the democratic principles themselves and really should involve the Cambodian public in the whole process and not keep it from the Cambodian public.
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