Ros Moan has been chief of Srae Thnong village in Preah Vihear province for more than 10 years. He says solving disputes in his remote community- which includes many members from the Kuoy ethnic minority- was often difficult because it lacked knowledge about the legislation and because a dispute resolution mechanism wasn’t available.
“When we tried solving disputes in the past, it often led to tense situations,” said Moan.
The situation changed after an Access to Justice Committee for the Poor (AJC) was set up in the area. AJC, which is a platform for villagers to talk about their problems, and to solve their disputes before they escalated, proved invaluable.
AJC was established in 2013 by Oxfam’s Strengthening Partnership toward Participatory and Accountable Governance of Land and Natural Resources in Cambodia (ECCS) in partnership with government stakeholders and other five local NGOs to provide a space for local stakeholders to talk and solve problem on land ownership.
Moan said the committee gives good advice to people with disputes, and encourages them to avoid escalating the problem and to solve it in the village. It helps him build stronger relationships among the people in his community, which in turn made dispute resolution easier.
Another positive effect of AJC, as observed by committee member’s Arn Loeun, who has been working in Srae Thnong village since 2013, was a remarkable change in the villagers' level of awareness about land and natural resource management.
“[As part of the committee] I have helped disseminate a lot of information about land management and rights. In the past, we knew nothing. To identify their land, people would just point at it and say it’s their land,” said Loeun.
The project just ended in December but the skills and lesson learned will remain with local stakeholders.
Khan Chamnan, Deputy Governor of Kratie province, said during the completion workshop in December that “all the project achievements are important and they contribute to policy reform of the government strategy.”