Villagers Ask Minister for Help

Source: Khmer Times | Wed, 15 June 2016, by Ven Rathavong

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Kratie residents came to Phnom Penh to submit a petition calling for intervention in a land dispute. KT/Ven Rathavong

Dozens of residents from Kratie’s Chhlong district gathered in front of the Ministry of Land Management yesterday to submit a petition calling for Minister Chea Sophara to intervene in a land dispute.

Mul Tert, a representative of Damrei commune residents, said they had been waiting for a solution to their dispute for eight years.
In 2007, the residents asked for about 3,671 hectares of land from the government to house 1,351 families, most of whom received either two or three hectares of land.

“Now there are still 403 more families who are waiting for plots of land and resolutions,” Mr. Tert said.

He alleged authorities sold the 403 plots to a third party for financial gain, adding that there is land nearby the government-granted plots being cleared to make way for plantations.

“We have the law that recognized our group to get the land,” Mr. Tert added, defending the residents’ rights.

Lay Phallim, Chief of the Land Management Ministry’s administration department, said he had received the petition and would submit it to Mr. Sophara, adding that his ministry had received and investigated petitions from the same group of residents before.

Khann Chamnan, the provincial deputy governor, said the land claimed by the residents to have been sold to third parties was social land concessions. He denied his authorities had cleared villagers from or sold the plots.

“We do not have money to buy or rent bulldozers to clear their land. We have only armed forces to deploy to protect and keep
villagers safe,” Mr. Chamnan said.

He explained that certain plots of land are now contested by multiple parties, so much that armed forces had to be deployed to prevent violence between groups.

“If we do not deploy armed forces, both sides will argue with each other and cause violence,” he said, adding that the dispute is the fault of an “anarchic” group of farmers who settled on land that didn’t belong to them.

It seems that confusion among families may have been born out of the manner by which the land was granted in the first place. Large swaths of land were granted to two groups of families, supposed to be constituted of 998 and 353 families respectively.

But according to Mr. Chamnan, some families did not apply to receive land, and so were not granted it. He also said only 116 families, not 403, were awaiting solutions, whose cases his authority is now working to solve.

“We have not got the list of 403 families yet. When we get it, we will verify it,” he said, adding that there are no more plots of land in Chhlong district, and so the families will have to be placed elsewhere.

They may end up in Sambo district, where about 30,000 hectares of land was recently freed up after the cancellation of economic land concessions, according to Mr. Chamnan.

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