In the 1970’s, the Khmer Rouge abolished private land ownership in Cambodia, and despite the 2001 national Land Law, families across the country have since lived in a state of uncertainty  concerning their rights to the land upon which they rely for their livelihoods. This has resulted in forced evictions which have led to repeated conflict for these communities who have already suffered so much.

For the past 10 years, Soucheng, a human rights defender, has been campaigning to persuade the government to award land titles to 500 landless local families in her community.

However, she found the process of government engagement to be challenging and was unable to make progress. She was not clear how best to secure the cooperation of the government, beyond staging demonstrations to draw attention to ongoing land disputes.

Cord has worked with Soucheng, through regular training sessions, to significantly build her confidence. In April 2016, she was able to put in place the knowledge, skills and confidence she had developed by presenting the government with a petition for the granting of land rights. Soucheng was accompanied by representatives of her community, each of whom committed to demonstrating peacefully. This marked an important turning point.

On 20th April 2017, Soucheng tearfully explained that she had just received confirmation that land titles would be awarded to 434 households in her community. 

For communities like Soucheng’s, constructive engagement and patience have proved more successful than remaining silent or turning to violence. The freedom to engage gives a voice to the excluded, enabling them to understand their rights and peacefully articulate them to those in authority.

“Without support from Cord and CCFC, I would not have been successful today. Our communities are now empowered to talk about their land issues…without land, we had nothing.”