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Cambodia returns land taken from indigenous people in ‘unprecedented’ move

Cambodia returns land taken from indigenous people in ‘unprecedented’ move

Cambodia’s government ordered to return land taken a decade ago from indigenous communities for a Vietnamese company’s rubber plantation. The foreign concessions, thus, faced a challenge like the greater scrutiny over rights violations.

Cambodia preferred to return the land taken in the mid-2000s from the indigenous people back to them. The unprecedented move of the authorities made the activity of foreign investors more complicated if not possible at all. According to the governor of the north-eastern province of Ratanakari, the agriculture ministry was asked to take out 64 areas from the land concessions, many of them are Vietnamese.

Cambodia’s indigenous rights organisation in Ratanakari praised such a decision, which “represents an unprecedented recognition of indigenous land rights over business interests in Cambodia”. Despite that, the communities still needed compensation and help to rehabilitate their land and waterways.

According to the local farmers, foreign investors must be held accountable for any violations and harmful impacts when they ignore due process, including consulting with communities and gaining their consent. The special communities last week filed a new complaint with the IFC over environmental and human rights violations and the loss of land reserved for farming.

Last year, Cambodian farmers who said they were forcibly removed from their land for sugarcane plantations, filed a case in a Bangkok court against a Thai sugar firm. As cross-border investments in the region increase, disputes over land have also risen.