Cambodia may no longer be of the Cambodians, at least as far as certain tracts of farmland are concerned. 

Foreign investors are buying tracts of land with the Cambodian's government permission and ousting local farmers who have worked the land for generations. 

Even though protests are made by the locals, the foreign corporations send heavy machinery to bulldoze everything on the land, including farmers' dwellings and move everyone out.  

In one single day in 2006, for example, more than 200 families lost their land and their means of sustenance.  Most of them today are unable to feed themselves.  Some of them had to emigrate to the very countries whose corporations have expropriated their lands: Thailand and Malaysia.  

The current Prime Minister is actually signing economic and land concessions to the foreign entities, whose principals have financial or even familial ties to him.  

Human Rights organizations estimate that almost 600,000 people have been thrown off their land and into a life of utter poverty.  

Strangely enough, the seed money for the corporations' acquisitions in Cambodia comes from Germany.  In fact, it is all part of program that the land grabbers are using to their advantage, courtesy of the German taxpayers. 

With the land grab, which ends with cultivation of destructive crops such as palm trees and sugar cane, are also disappearing some of the oldest forests in Cambodia.  

The ability of corporations to expropriate the land makes good use of a chaotic land management system, that goes back to the Khmer rouge rule when almost all relevant documents were burned and millions killed,so that no one for sure knows who owns what land, and what land is actually private or state owned.  The Khmer also passed a law that said that the entire country's land was government property.   Although a law was passed that allows farmers to own land they have farmed for the past 5 years or more, that does not stop foreigner entities from taking it away.  All the law provides for, is that the farmer be compensated.  And even that is poorly implemented. 

Talks in Phnom Penh are slated for the beginning of December. One of the points to be discussed is the land grab that has been ongoing for almost a decade.  The German Green party wants the loans that are the basis for the acquisition to be cancelled.   Cambodia, for its part, is promising to enact a land registry in which all farmers can record their land.  2 million people have already taken advantage of the new registry, according to the central government.   Germany has also been assisting in this, by offering land registry experts from the German Society of International Cooperation for almost a decade.  But since Germany is the loaning agent in most cases, the role of the German government as contradictory as it is, is coming under increasing scrutiny. 

However, the German aid workers in Cambodia relate that the Prime Minister is still allowing companies to buy land, even as he promotes the land registry program.  They even cite the fact that some of the Germans who want to oversee the program are blocked from traveling to the farmlands.  For this reason, they are not able to verify if the farmers who have registered their land in the land registry are actually holding title to their land. 

 Source : Spiegel international/ 11.30.13

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