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52,000 hectares of land seized in Siem Reap

SIEM REAP PROVINCE
OFFICIALS in Siem Reap province say they have recently confiscated 52,000 hectares of illegally occupied land, and that it will be allocated to military and poor families.

Ty Sokun, director general of the Forestry Administration, said Siem Reap Governor Sou Phirin had authorised the taking of land from “rich” and “anarchic” occupants who he said were illegally occupying state property in eight of the province’s 12 districts.

Chheang Tola, the Siem Reap Forestry Department director, said the confiscations had prompted 864 complaints from affected families.

“It is a very complex issue to take the land back,” he said at a meeting on Wednesday that addressed the confiscations.

Ty Sokun said that around 2,500 hectares of the confiscated land would be allocated to military families, and that trees would be planted on 3,000 hectares. The remaining land, he said, would be converted into social concessions for “families in need” or granted to companies that wanted to invest in the province, though he emphasised that officials would prioritise families over companies.

“We will grant land to really poor families who really need land,” he said.

Moeng Vuthy, the governor of Banteay Srei district, said there had been some confusion about what land would be confiscated, as the boundaries separating state land from private land were not clearly demarcated.

“The villagers came to ask me whether the confiscations would affect their land,” he said, adding that he had often been unable to give them an answer.

So Chorn, a 62-year-old resident of Khumream commune in Banteay Srei district, said Wednesday he had heard that officials planned to confiscate the land on which he has grown rice and watermelons since 1997.

“I am concerned that they will take it and never give it back to us,” he said.

“I ask them to grant us that land because we do not have other land to grow our crops.”

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