Ministry moves to end land feuds

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Suy Sophan, the owner of Phan Imex Development Company. FreshNews

The Ministry of Land Management is to start work on resolving 20 land disputes in Chbar Ampov district in Phnom Penh and Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province.
In these cases, 554 families have filed complaints against Phan Imex Development Company owner Suy Sophan.
The government, through the Council of Ministers on Thursday, sent a letter to Land Management Minister Chea Sophara asking him to take part in finding resolutions for village residents.
Mr. Sophara said earlier that he knew of more than 100 land conflict lawsuits against Ms. Sophan. He said she had previously cheated him and violated a contract with the government over developments in the Borei Keila community and other areas, which caused innumerable conflicts and made many lose faith in the government.
According to the ministry, the 554 families say Phan Imex Development Company breached a contract and designated a public road, villagers’ land and natural lakes as its own property. The company allegedly used bulldozers to clear land and start construction without permission.
Villagers also accuse the company of conspiring with government officials to make fake land titles and falsify documents. Ministry spokesman Seng Lot said they have not yet determined whether Ms. Sophan is at fault in these 20 disputes.
He told Khmer Times the ministry will soon call on Ms. Sophan, affected families and local authorities for discussions and questioning. They will also check on evidence presented by both plaintiffs and defendants.
“The ministry will check the disputed land case by case and we will go to the area to verify each claim, which might take some time to ensure a transparent conclusion,” Mr. Lot said.
The evicted villagers in the two locations have protested and marched on public bodies to find appropriate solutions.
Ms. Sophan, who is known as a powerful businesswoman and a public figure close to the ruling CPP, said she was busy yesterday but her assistant said she was ready to take part in discussions for a solution. Her assistant said Ms. Sophan had also suffered like the villagers whose land she allegedly stole.
“She is fine with finding a joint solution since she has appealed to local authorities many times for a solution too. She also suffered from the conflicts,” Ms. Sophan’s assistant said.
Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, chairman of the National Assembly’s human rights commission, said he supported the action by the ministry as he noted that one party in the conflict was a powerful businesswoman.
“It is the duty of the ministry to resolve the dispute according to the complaints of citizens,” he said.
“We all know land conflicts happen again and again and mostly between rich and powerful figures and villagers. Now that the ministry has taken action, I congratulate it.”
Yesterday, the government also ordered the land administration to suspend the registration or transfer of land in situations where there is an unresolved conflict.

Source: Khmer Times

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