Since around 2007, Cambodia has implemented a system called Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) to both domestic and international firms. This system has had tremendously detrimental effects on people in Cambodia.
ELC is a system which the government gives national land rents to firms in order to facilitate economic development and to eradicate poverty by creating more jobs to the local people. They are now currently putting about one million hectares of large scale farmland or tourist attractions on lease. Contrary to the stated motives for this plan, however, ELCs are taking away peoples’ farms, houses and lives.
According to LICADHO, a human rights group in Cambodia, approximately 24 million people are in danger of eviction under the policy. The biggest challenge is that people are not able to support their life and their family when their land is taken. Since 85 percent of the population works in agriculture, the loss of land directly takes away their means of living.
Even though the government is aware of this situation, it continues to empower firms with more lands and people under eviction are oppressively ignored. According to Amnesty International, activists who have tried to fight this situation were sent to prison and were often forced to sign to documents relinquishing their land ownership.
Family structure is also undermined as many husbands are sent to prison as a result of resistance to the government. “They said that a factory was going to be built. But there was nothing that was informed or compromised earlier of the eviction. I have never imagined to have lose everything all at once,” says Heap, a 26 years old woman who has lost her husband to the government.
“I wish the government could see the poor. They should care more for the less privileged people than for their own power and money. Even the poor have a heart and human right,” insists Heap, who was evicted at Chi Kreng in Cambodia.
Another woman, Mai, who used to live in a village called Boss was sent to prison for the same reason but when she was pregnant. She says, “I was so surprised. They dragged me into the car when I was bleeding… It hurt, and was painful but there was nobody to take care after me.”
This destructive system, created under the veil of “economical development” should immediately come to an end due to its extremely negative impacts on peoples’ lives.