Last month a demonstration of several hundred Cambodians, representing tens of thousands of people who have had their land seized, filed past the residence of the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, petition in hand, calling for help in denouncing the taking over and seizing of agricultural land. But in vain, as the peasants were repulsed by riot police.
If certain critics are to be believed, the authorities wholly ignore these communities who have been forcibly evicted over the years, and their land sold or let to foreign and local businesses. And this even though the World Bank had condemned these expulsions as a hindrance in the fight against poverty, and sponsored a project to settle land disputes. But Cambodia abandoned the project and, last December, its parliament approved a controversial law authorising the government to expropriate land, heightening concern among those who predict major population displacements.
“Land security and an equitable and transparent approach to settling land disputes are the greatest challenges facing Cambodia,” Bou Saroeun declared, the World Bank’s spokesman in Cambodia.
Cambodia is not the only country to be hit by social protests originating in insufficient oversight and regulation of the agricultural sector. In India this week, opposition parties took to the streets to demonstrate against rampant inflation due to the increase in the price of oil and foodstuffs, which have risen by nearly 20% over the past seven months. It is now urgent that the international community address this problem as a priority, so as to avoid worsening social, political, and economic instability.