Land reform in Cambodia reached a milestone in 2001 with the promulgation of its Land Law. This was followed by laws and programs that improved access to land for the poor. The government’s Land Administration, Management and Distribution Program, aims to strengthen land tenure security and land markets, and prevent or resolve land disputes; manage land and natural resources equitably, sustainably and efficiently; and promote land distribution with equity. The Sub-decree on Social Land Concessions (SLCs) was issued in 2003 to give land to the poor, while the Sub-decree on Economic Land Concessions (ELCs) was issued in 2005 to grant state land for industrial and commercial agriculture use.

In recent years, land has come under intense demand and competition, due to domestic, regional and international economic trends. Cambodia is witnessing urbanization, real estate boom, special economic zones, hydropower projects, and economic corridors.

Monitoring has focused on four main components: inputs (laws and policies, programs, budget, and aid), land tenure (issuance and distribution of titles), access to land (landlessness, land grabbing, tenancy and sharecropping), and land disputes (cases received and resolved, affected households).

Access to Land

  • According to National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) Update 2009-2013, approximately 1.6 million land titles were issued. As the total land parcels was estimated to be about 6-7 million, it means roughly 25 of the total parcels are now secured by the land certificates while the rest are subject to various threats.
  • 36% of the Cambodian households who owns lands have land titles issued by the government as of 2007 (World Bank, 2009).
  • Based from World Bank data on access to agricultural land in 2009, the proportion of Cambodians who owns or operates agricultural lands remained unchanged at 74% between 2004 and 2007.
  • In 2004, 26% of households in rural Cambodia owned less than half a hectare (World Bank, 2006). Another survey claims that 45% of rural households owned less than one hectare per household (Cambodian Development Resource Institute, 2008).
  • In 2010, only about a quarter of total land parcels were secured by land certificates: most Cambodians own land not officially recognized by the state (STAR Kampuchea and Sothath, 2011).
  • Farming households own an average of one hectare of land (NGO Forum on Cambodia, 2005).
  • Landlessness has been rising since 1997. 21% of rural people are landless in 2008 (based on data from World Bank, 2006 and CDRI, 2008).
  • In 1994, the GINI coefficient was 38.3, and in 2007, it was 44.2 (CDRI, CARD, and IFPRI, 2011).

Land Disputes and Evictions

Number of cases

  • Between 1991 and 2004, there have been 1,551 land disputes covering over 380,000 ha and more than 160,000 farming families. As of 2006, two-thirds of these cases remain unresolved (LICADHO Report, 2006).
  • The report from Human Rights Watch showed that in 2012, the government arrested more than two hundred land activists and defenders which are more than double compared with 98 people who were arrested in 2011, and higher than any year on record since 2007 (STAR Kampuchea, 2014)
  • Cadastral Commissions have processed nearly 5,000 land dispute cases. More than 2,500 of which were successfully solved. Out of 2,500 cases, there are nearly 400 cases are entangled because there are numerous parties embroil in a conflict, oftentimes a large group of villagers protest against the powerful persons (STAR Kampuchea, 2014).
Dipute Resolution

Cambodia’s Cadastral Commission claims to have resolved 8,560 cases in 2010, which involve fewer households (about five) and 2 ha of land on average. It received 5,193 dispute cases, resolving 35% of cases: 34% are pending; 25% are rejected due to non-compliance; and 5% are withdrawn (ANGOC, 2012).

Land Grabbing

It was estimated that nearly 300,000 Cambodians have been the victim of land grab since 2004, which is roughly 1 out of every 50 citizens (LICADHO, 2010 as cited from STAR Kampuchea, 2011).

  • According to Amnesty International, an estimated 150,000 Cambodians are at risk of eviction due to development projects, land disputes and land grabbing. From 1990 to 2008, some 26,000 families were evicted.
  • A report on Land and Housing Rights has stated that in 2011 alone, at least 600,000 people were evicted from 127 communities. As a note from the Theang Tnout Organization Report, the displaced families in Phnom Penh from 1990 to2011 were more than 29,358 families covering around 146,790 people evicted (STAR Kampuchea, 2014).

Food Security and Nutrition

Poverty, Hunger, and Food Security
  • According to the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis (CFSVA) in 2008, approximately 340,000 households (1.7 million people) were food insecure. This represents 11% of the total population. Four percent of the population is highly insecure (World Food Programme and VAM Food Security Analysis 2008).
  • In 2004, 34.7% of Cambodians lived below the poverty line (Strategic Framework for Food Security in Cambodia, 2008-2012)
  • 23% of the Cambodian population, or 3 million people, were food- deprived in 2003-2004, consuming less than the minimum daily energy requirement of 1715kcal/day.
Nutritional Status
  • Child malnutrition is one of the biggest health problems that Cambodia is facing currently. Cambodia is among the 15 worst countries globally for child malnutrition.
  • In 2005, more than 37% (630,000) of Cambodian children under the age of five were suffering from chronic malnutrition (stunting), while 36% of the children under the age of five were underweight, and 7% were acutely malnourished (wasted). More than 60% of the children under the age of two suffered from anemia (Monthivuth, 2011 and Strategic Framework for Food Security in Cambodia, 2008-2012)
  • Household survey since 2005 shows that 28% of children are underweight. At 39.9%, Cambodia has the 13th highest prevalence of short children in the world, and the highest in the region. It is higher than for a healthy population. From 2005 to 2010 the percentage of children too thin has crossed the IPC emergency threshold, increasing from 8.4%to 10.9% (Early childhood Nutrition fact sheet-Cambodia 2011).
  • The prevalence of undernourishment was brought down from 38% in 1992 to 25% in 2006. While 59% of all children under five years of age were stunted and 43% underweight in 1996, the indicators declined to 40% for stunting and 29% for underweight in 2008 (CDRI, CARD, and IFPRI, 2011).