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Concerns Over Cambodia's Use Of Students In Land Titling Scheme
Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-10-08/an-controversy-over-pm27s-plan-to-involve-students-in-land-tit/4300714?section=australianetworknews
Source Date: Monday, October 08, 2012
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Cambodia
Created: Oct 07, 2012

The Cambodian Prime Minister's plan to enlist students to help grant land titles to villagers has been met with uncertainty from community groups and the UN Special Rapporteur to Cambodia, Prof Surya Subedi.

Hun Sen's titling plan was announced in June and is intended to resolve land conflict stemming from the Khmer Rouge regime's ban on private property in the 1970s.

Around 1,600 students have been sent around the country to demarcate 4.4 million acres of uncontested territory, which will allow officials to issue titles to an estimated 470,000 families within the next few months.

"For those in non-conflict areas its very good, but it doesn't address the major problem," Nicolas Agostini from the local rights group ADHOC told the AFP news agency.

"People who are most in need of land titles won't receive them," he said, referring to the fact that the titling project will avoid disputed land.

Prime ministerial salary

Some observers have welcomed the land tenure security offered by the scheme, and Hun Sen insists it will encourage owners to invest in their property and boost the economy.

He has said he is willing to pay the students a monthly salary of about AU$200 from his own pocket.

Prof Subedi told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program that he welcomes any attempt to resolve land rights disputes.

However, he has contacted the Prime Minister's office for clarification on how the students will be paid and to express concerns that the students will be made wear military fatigues.

"These are issues that have been brought to my attention that I am still seeking proper information from the government on and I am still waiting for their response," he said.

Critics threatened
Other rights groups have accused Hun Sen of using the scheme to shore up support ahead of next year's election.

One Western diplomat also suggested campaigners face "a significant risk" if they go public with their concerns.

Sia Phearum, a well-known land rights advocate, said he was threatened by a government-affiliated youth group after he expressed reservations about using inexperienced students.

"They told me if I continue to criticise government policy, they are not responsible for what happens to me," he is quoted as saying by AFP.
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