A survey of households in Timor-Leste has found most people in the country's capital Dili fear eviction from their land in the next five years.
Land conflict and dispossession in the country are "dormant giants" and pose an increasing threat to stability, according to an Asia Foundation report.
The foundation's Timor-Leste deputy country director Todd Wassel co-authored the report to inform the debate about draft land laws currently before the country's Parliament.
"If the law were to pass, we estimate a quarter of Dili would not be protected under the new law, so they wouldn't have any legal tenure security on the land where they're currently living," Mr Wassel said.
"That's roughly about 63,000 people."
"The survey found that almost 60 per cent of people, despite saying that they own the land, are afraid that they'll be evicted in the next five years."
More than 1,000 households in Ainaro, Ermera and the urban area of Dili took part in the survey.
"There hasn't really been any quantitative data available for the policy development process," Mr Wassel said.
Mr Wassel said the number of people without protection under the draft land laws could be even higher, because people who reported holding valid land titles could be mistaken.
He said the draft land laws catered primarily for people who moved onto their land before 1999 and people in Dili were most likely to be affected by the new regime.
"There was a lot of dispossession and landlessness that happened during the Indonesian occupation and we're seeing people focusing on Dili as their main source of livelihoods."
Land laws must protect residents
Ines Martins is part of the Timor-Leste Land Network and said the land laws needed to protect people forcibly relocated during the Indonesian administration.
Ms Martins said an adverse possession law, which provides the right to land or compensation from possession of land prior to 31 December 1998, specifically excluded these people.
"During that time, most of Timor Leste was evicted from their land to another land. So how can we solve this issue?"
Ms Martins said people would not be satisfied with monetary compensation, and guidelines for providing alternative land after evictions should be part of the legislation.
"People don't want to move, but politically forcing them to move? The Government has to think about this, they have to evaluate this."
The survey also found only 40 per cent of people living in Dili indicated they owned land outside the capital.
"If people get dispossessed in Dili there is no place for them to go," Mr Wassel said.
"There's a common misconception that if people lose their land in Dili, they can just move back to the countryside where they're from."
"Most people don't have that option."
Mr Wassel said he hoped to see an increase in discussion about land rights in Timor Leste in the lead-up to the country's elections this year.
"I think land issues touch just about everybody in the country."