December 15, 2009, Dr. Sokbunthoeun So and Dr. John Bruce

Land Rights in Cambodia: A Dimension of Human Insecurity


(Washington D.C.) December 15– Cambodia has undergone substantial changes following an end to internal conflicts, the re-establishment of a market economy, and the development of democratic elections in 1993. The country’s government became increasingly stable with the consolidation of power under the ruling Cambodian People Party (CPP) and Cambodia’s economy also grew at an unprecedented rate. Land rights, however, have emerged as a major issue, with poor farmers seeing their orchards and rice fields cleared to make way for large scale industrial agricultural development and the urban poor losing their homes to make way for upscale housing developments. Dr. Sokbunthoeun So and discussant Dr. John Bruce examined the state of land ownership in Cambodia, discussing the Cambodian government’s poor technical expertise in land management as well as the underlying political economic conditions that threaten land ownership for Cambodia’s poor.


Sokbunthoeun So is a visiting fellow with the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and the East West Center in Washington. He is a member of the VU University of Amsterdam initiated research project, Cambodia Research Group, and will take up a researcher’s position there in 2012. His recent research focuses on the issue of access to land, land tenure security, and land registration in Cambodia. His publications include a co-authored article entitled “Politics of Natural Resource Use in Cambodia” in Asian Affairs: an American Review ; and a forthcoming book chapter entitled “The Politics and Practice of Land Registration at the Grass Roots Level in Cambodia.” Dr. So was a recipient of Fulbright Fellowship in 2002.


John W. Bruce is executive director of Land and Development Solutions International. He began work on land tenure issues in the late 1960s as a Peace Corps legal advisor to the Ministry of Land Reform in Ethiopia. He spent five years in Sudan as the Ford Foundation’s representative in the 1970s, teaching Property at the Faculty of Law of the University of Khartoum and coordinating the Faculty’s Sudan Customary Law Research Project. Later, he worked at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Land Tenure Center, where he served as African Program Coordinator, and then as Director. In 1996 he left the University to join the World Bank, where he served as Senior Counsel (Land Law) and Senior Land Tenure Specialist for the Bank’s Rural Development Department. He retired from the World Bank in 2006. Dr. Bruce has published extensively on land policy and law, most recently Land Law Reform: Achieving Development Policy Objectives (World Bank, 2006), Land and Business Formalization for Legal Empowerment of the Poor, Strategic Overview Paper (USAID, 2007), and Legal Empowerment of the Poor; from Concepts to Assessment (USAID. 2007).