Potential new law on agricultural land in consultation in Cambodia

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Potential new law on agricultural land in consultation in Cambodia


01 March 2017

A potential new Cambodian law on agricultural land is now in consultation, but needs more revision to protect local communities from the harm caused by economic land concessions, an MRLG report has found.

Furthermore, the draft law has not considered distribution to the poor of the land the government has recently recouped from cancelled ELCs in its proposed legislation.

These are some of the concerns over the Cambodian government’s draft Agricultural Land Law, which was the subject of a recent national consultation workshop held in Phnom Penh.

The two-day workshop, held in December 2016, was a collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the NGO Forum on Cambodia, and MRLG supports the initiative to bring together representatives of farming organisations and civil society organisations so that they could voice their concerns about the law directly to the government.

Presided over by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries H.E. Veng Sakhon, it brought together participants from government, development partners, international and local NGOs, farming groups, indigenous people and private sector representatives.

As a technical input for the consultation process, MRLG also supported a review and comment on the 6th draft of the agricultural land law, which was circulated among interested organisations and shared at the consultation workshop.

In it, author George Cooper reiterates that the review’s main inquiries have arisen from the MRLG project’s “long-term goal to support family farmers—especially those belonging to ethnic minorities—to have secure and equitable access to and control over agricultural land, forest, and fisheries, and to protect those rights in the long term”.

It also focuses on issues of effective management and monitoring of ELCs, and on conflicts between the draft and existing legal texts.

Many of these concerns were echoed in the workshop’s discussions, including that the development of this law should take into consideration existing laws, and that the principle of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) must be upheld.

Participants also agreed that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) must be approved before granting of economic land concession and agricultural land concession.

As set out in Cooper’s review, these are of paramount concern because the current draft proposes protections of local communities from harm by ELCs that are no stronger than those provisions in an existing ELC sub-decree.

Moreover, while the 2001 Land Law forbids long-term uses of state public land, the draft explicitly allows ELCs on such land.

Other concerns are that the draft says nothing about the distribution to the poor of the apparently large amount of land that the government has recovered from cancelled ELCs.  It proposes no legal provisions that would explicitly block the taking of Indigenous Communities’ lands by ELCs and others, nor does it contain explicit provisions banning evictions of family farmers from ELCs.

The review and commentary is available here.