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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

UN Calls on Cambodia to Protect Land of Indigenous People

By Ker Munthit, Associated Press Writer

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) -- The United Nations criticized Cambodia's government Wednesday for doing little to protect the land of indigenous people, whose livelihood has increasingly come under threat from land-grabbing by the rich and powerful.

The government needs to take swift action to halt land-grabbing in tribal areas, the U.N. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia said in a statement Wednesday. The statement was released to mark the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples on Thursday.

"There are continuing concerns about the protection of indigenous land. Of particular concern is the growing number of economic land concessions and mining licenses granted over indigenous land, without community consultation," it said.

Members of the Tampoun ethnic minority in the remote northeastern province of Rattanakiri said Wednesday they were forced to bury their tribal chief at a new site after their ancestral graveyard was sold to a private owner, an action they feared could bring them bad luck.

The U.N. office noted that Cambodia's land law passed in 2001 recognizes the right of indigenous communities to collective ownership of their lands, which includes land reserved for shifting cultivation.

But in the six years since then, "not a single collective land title" had been issued to any indigenous community by the government, it said.

In recent years, land disputes have become frequent occurrences in Cambodia, usually pitting poor farmers against developers. Several people have been killed.

Yash Ghai, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for human rights in Cambodia, expressed deep concern about ethnic minority groups losing out on land to business allies of the government.

"A wealthy and powerful social class has emerged on the back of the state through the exploitation of the people and the country's resources, relying on access to, and accumulation through, the apparatus of the state," he said in his report to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights in June.

Instead of helping the indigenous people, "the government tilts in favor of business companies whenever their interests clash with the interests of rural or urban people," he said.

The government called his allegations unacceptable.

In the Rattanakiri case, the relatives of Bou Nuth, a 76-year-old tribal chief who died Sunday, were barred from burying his body in their ancestral graveyard, said Tev Mak, the deceased man's nephew.

Instead, they had to bury him about 1 kilometer away from their village, contrary to tradition that says the deceased must be buried near their home, he said.

Seng Thung, a village chief, said the old graveyard, covering about 10 acres, was sold to a senior provincial official in recent years by an unknown individual who had claimed ownership over the property.

Sak Son, a provincial district deputy governor, dismissed the villagers' claim the land was their ancestral graveyard, saying only that it belongs to a provincial official whom he declined to name.
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Cambodia and Vietnam to build cross-border golf course

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia and Vietnam are going to build a $100 million (49.2 million pounds) golf course straddling their border in a region heavily bombed by U.S. forces in their anti-communist war in the 1960s and 70s, officials said on Wednesday.

The "Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Golf Resort" to be developed jointly by Cambodia's Bada Investment Co. and a Malaysian firm called VXL will take five years to build and will have nine holes in each country, as well as a 450-room five-star hotel.

A helicopter service will be able to carry visitors from Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temples to the resort, tourism minister Thong Khon said.

"After visiting Angkor, they can play golf before heading to swim at the beaches," he told Reuters.

Cambodia leased five islands in the Gulf of Thailand for $627 million to six local companies and foreign investors to build tourist resorts. It now has two golf courses near Phnom Penh and two near Angkor.

The southeast Asian nation is fast putting the legacy of Pol Pot's Killing Fields behind it, with economic growth in last two years at around 10 percent and foreign visitors climbing rapidly to the 2 million-a-year mark.
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Japan announces military co-op with Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Japan's Defense Ministry will deepen bilateral ties with Cambodia's Defense Ministry in attempt to strengthen security in the region and the world, local newspapers reported Tuesday.

Japanese Deputy Defense Minister Takahide Kimura announced a plan during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday in Phnom Penh, the Koh Santepheap newspaper said.

The military collaboration is a result of a deal struck between the two countries during Hun Sen's visit to Japan in June, Takahide Kimura was quoted as saying.

Eang Sophalleth, advisor to the premier, said Hun Sen welcomed the cooperation and asked the Japanese side to train the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in engineering so that they can construct roads in rural areas and assist people during national emergencies, the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper said. Read more!

Australia grants 2 million dollars to Cambodian land mine victims

Phnom Penh - Australia will provide 2.14 million dollars in aid over two years to help improve rehabilitation services for landmine victims in remote areas of Cambodia, the Australian government said Tuesday. In a statement posted on the AusAid website, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs said it would fund the supply of prosthetic limbs and skills'-training programmes, and support rehabilitation centres.

"Landmines and unexploded ordnance are significant obstacles to reconstruction and development," it said. "Australia's new aid package will help reduce suffering and lessen the threat and socio-economic impact of landmines and other explosive remnants of war in Cambodia."

Up to 6 million land mines and unexploded ordinance still litter parts of Cambodia after 30 years of civil war and US bombing during the Vietnam War era.

The Australian government said the two-year package would go towards assisting the Cambodian Red Cross provide survivor assistance and mine-risk education and support the Cambodian government develop a victim-assistance plan.

Australia has provided about 47 million dollars on mine action in Cambodia since 1996, the statement said, adding that international aid from Australia "has significantly reduced landmine and unexploded ordnance casualty rates in Cambodia by over 80 per cent in the past decade".
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Vietnamese firms eye rubber cultivation in Cambodia

Three Vietnamese businesses have teamed up to kick-start a joint stock company that will cultivate rubber in Cambodia.

The Phu Rieng-Karatie Joint Stock Company has a total chartered capital of 200 billion VND. The Viet Nam Rubber Industry Group holds a 40 percent stake in the company, with the Phu Rieng Rubber Company and the Da River Corporation coming in for 30 percent each.

A 70 year lease on nearly 1,000 ha of land in Cambodia’s Karatie province was secured by the firm. Some 300 ha of land has been reclaimed and 100 ha is already having rubber trees.
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