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I'm sure the apologists will be making their usual pathetic excuses.
A very good documentary in my my opinion.
My connection is slow, I'll have to check it out on Friday. Anyway, speaking of pathetic, I thought the moratorium on new land concessions sounded too good to be true. Then I read the other day that 32 new concessions have been granted since the moratorium was announced...
Doesn't make pleasant viewing.
As for the moratorium... The government left a classic loophole which essentially means the moratorium is worthless. The government doesn't include concessions that where in process and guess what, there is no list of concessions in process.
I try to see both sides but on this topic it's hard to. I of course am a minor victim myself. I would like to add one angle that I've never seen mentioned in the press. The NGOs understandably focus on tfe poor victims and generally mention only examples where dozens of poor people have been affected. What is never mentioned is this - I know three generals and other 'high' people who have had $ six figure sums of land grabbed. No sympathy votes there, but it should be added to the complete picture.
I came, I argued, I'm out
We all know the problem, but what is the solution? This is a very emotive issue, but it would be good to have a debate on what the best course of action is.
For the sake of argument lets take away the minority of land grabs that are straight theft and look at the far larger problem of the landless poor who at some point post KR (often within the last 10-15 years) settled on state land and who have been moved aside in the name of development. On one hand you have cases such as the railway rehabilitation or the widening of route 1 where it's pretty hard to argue that the residents weren't on state land or validity of said development. At the other end you have slash and burn farmers in the North-east who are often minorities and have worked a track of land without boundaries or fences for generations and used the surrounding forests for hunting, only to be pushed off or pushed back for a "rubber plantation" which is a logging operation first and a rubber operation a distant second.
Cambodia's recent history and situation is unique, it facilitated a period where people were not prevented from settling on state land and at times even encouraged, it's a situation that any normal country not in a state of political chaos would have prevented from happening in the first place. The problem here is that it did happen and now the question is what to do about it.
Let's look at the extreme sides of the argument.
To the right, you have those who think anyone on state land without a title should be removed once an opportunity to increase the efficiency of the land presents itself. Be damned with the social and economic impact for this minority, as long as the GDP keeps going up, and the living conditions for the majority increase with it. (IMHO pretty much the same behaviour as most Western democratic countries, just not as tactfully executed)
To the left you have those who think no one should ever be forcefully evicted and compensations offers should match the hearsay speculative price the land would be valued at if it were not contested state land even if this makes 95% of the current investments financially untenable. Large landowners (Mong Rithy etc) should be stripped of their amassed land and it should be distributed to the poor. Be damned with the economic consequences and FDI crash, subsistence farming is the way forward. (IMHO a similar strategy to Venezuela and to a lesser extent Zimbabwe).
Then we have the middle way of the donor countries who sit on the fence making noises condemning ELC's whilst allowing and often facilitating companies from their countries to invest in them.
Anyway, I'm not saying I have the answer because I don't, but I think it's much more important to focus on the solution both at the micro and macro level rather than simply restate the problem.
Last edited by starkmonster on Tue Nov 27, 2012 10:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Starkmonster... Thanks for taking time out to write a very good and well thought out reply. I agree with a lot of what you have said. The challenge as you say is finding solutions that work.
I think the depressing part (and that which leads to so much criticism of the government) is both how poorly these evictions are planned and also that government forces (police and military) are used to carry them out often lacking in any kind of discipline. The fact that much of the land has also ended up derelict years after the evictions (Sambok Chab and Day Krahom being classic examples) is also not lost on those who appreciate bitter irony.
There was an example of land being taken over around 10 years ago which was handled quite well but I've bloody well forgotten where it was. Some NGO's have been using it as an example of how to do this sort of thing properly but of course they've been ignored by the 7NG's, etc.
That was Borei Keila, it was the poster child for urban evictions with on-site housing and staggered land clearance. But ultimately it was an economic failure, the investors (often hidden behind Cambodian front companies and offshore shell companies) obviously pulled the plug, the last two apartment blocks didn't get built and the project the land was slated for never came to pass.
For me a big part of solving this problem is reform of the courts. If people had confidence that the court could identify the people who had a legal right to compensation from those that don't and order realistic compensation based on the true market value rather than the governments extremely low estimate and the NGO's extremely high estimates. Instead we get protests followed by broad resolutions either in their favour or against that apply to all, regardless of the facts of their own individual cases. Of course there would be people who would be found to have no legal claim and will be left homeless, but this is where the development sector should step in and offer assistance.
You can read a history of the Borei Keila community here - http://licadho-cambodia.org/articles/20 ... index.html
Obviously it's from Licadho who are professional enough not to make stuff up, but that doesn't mean that they're above including the parts that support their stance whilst failing to include the parts that don't. In the case of Borei Keila and that of Boeng Kak the history of who originally settled those sites and the general public opinion towards that group is a very important part of the story and I've never seen it printed in the English language media despite the countless articles on the topic.
Another issue i've seen is the definition of "state" land. I've cited in another thread my in-laws here. They worked their land since before the KR came, during, and now after... and are at risk.
The "state" has basically stated that ALL land is state land unless you managed to arrange otherwise AFTER the current "state" was newly formed. All previous forms of title and ownership are being ignored and for many there's no real recourse to make the land "owned" by the new guidelines... as that process is dependent on a corrupt system of officials preventing title issuing anywhere they want. I think a plain and simple solution would be for the state to halt all concessions and have an honest and legitimate review of "ownership" of land, issuing real hard titles as it goes.
Then, those who have no claim on land could have little to complain about and some warning as to their situation so they could seek so make themselves more secure. Someone who's family has worked land for 60-70 years should have no fear that it's actually gov't owned land they're squatting on.
That said, i know none of this is very realistic, as the current administration profits from these grabs directly via kickbacks/etc and has no apparent desire to do anything other than make themselves look better politically while they continue to do them.
Unfortunately, at the same time some concessions ARE needed to further economic growth. HE was actually right when he stated that there was no future in basket weaving as an economy. However proper reimbursement of the people living on it instead of just lining the pockets of the officials and the red cross lady when "aid" is sent to those people would help them to move to a new home in moments of eminent domain. It's not an unusual concept, taking privately held land for the needs of the community, it's just that in the west people are compensated with a fair market value instead of being driven out with clubs and guns.
Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.
Robert H. Jackson, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
ELCs were originally proposed by the US dominated World Bank following advice from Milton Friedman. They were originally used in the US sphere of influence-Central and South America. Obama's criticism of land grabbing here stems from the fact that US companies are not involved-the companies are local or Asian.
Like other posters, I have an ambivalent attitude to the issues. I don't support the Borei Keila and Boueng Kak protestors, for reasons I would be happy to explain, but I oppose many of the grabs that are taking place in rural areas.
Well start explaining. I'm listening.
I am just a nobody
But one day I will be a somebody really important
And you all will be wanting to shake my hand
Hey you, you are my friend.
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