Under growing pressure from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the government on Saturday offered official land titles to hundreds of Kratie villagers, putting an end to their long-running dispute with a South Korean agricultural company.
Im Chhun Lim, minister of land management, urban planning and construction, said that following further inspection of the land in Snuol commune and its disputed ownership, his ministry found that Horizon Agriculture Development Company had failed to meet the conditions of its economic land concession by not adequately cultivating the land.
“The company has not complied with the announcement, so the lands have to be seized back,” Chhun Lim said.
He added that 361 land certificates, covering a total of 1,562.75 hectares of land, would be awarded to 324 families in the commune’s Krong and Thpong villages.
He advised residents to collect the certificates from Kratie Provincial Hall on Wednesday, adding that those who could not make this date could collect the certificates from the provincial land management, urban planning and construction department.
The announcement was made at Phnom Penh’s Samaki Rainsey pagoda, where hundreds of the villagers had been staying while seeking intervention. It came less than two weeks after Hun Sen warned officials that he had “no patience” left for inaction on land disputes.
In a strongly worded speech last month, the premier called on officials to stop being “lazy” and instead seek solutions.
Suon Vicheka, a representative of the villagers, welcomed the decision on Saturday, adding that villagers would return to their homes so that they could collect their official titles.
Vicheka added that a further 51 families in a dispute with Horizon Agriculture Development over 66 plots of land would also return home to await a solution, as promised by Chhun Lim.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, urged the government to continue to act on disputes.
“It is time for the two parties to create a new government which can end land disputes . . . since land disputes are the root of social problems.”