‘Quest for Land’ is a project which took 11 years, between 2000 and 2012, to complete. It closely monitors the staggering number of evictions and land issues happening in Cambodia after decennia of war which fundamentally crippled the country. In Phnom Penh alone 150000 people, out of a population of 1,5 million in 2012, were forcefully evicted, mostly without a fair compensation. This ebook, with texts by Robert Carmichael and photographs by John Vink, is an in-depth report on the various aspects and consequences of land grabbings in Cambodia.
Despite rural migration, Cambodia is still mainly a rural society with many of its citizens making a living from farming. The possession of land is essential for survival for a vast majority of them. Land symbolizes security. Today, in an unbridled market economy supported by corruption and autocracy, where literally everything, from governmental property to human dignity seems to be for sale, land is a prime target for investors.
Besides taking away the means by which families can survive from one year to another, land grabbing rips apart communities and their cultural foundations. The implications run very deep into society and the current evictions in Cambodia create such frustrations with the population that sometimes it looks as if a pre-1975 situation was recreated, if it were not for a different geopolitical situation.
Through documenting land issues in Cambodia, this project exposes the heritage of political madness carried by the shoulders of the innocent. It can somehow be considered as a prequel to ‘Hearths of Resistance’.