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Big goal set for Hun Sen’s volunteers

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Volunteers taking part in the government’s land-measurement program prepare to depart Phnom Penh for the provinces, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s next wave of student volunteers had been given the goal of measuring more than a million hectares of land before the national election on July 28, a land ministry official said yesterday.

Speaking at a send-off for about 2,000 volunteers at Koh Pich yesterday, Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Minister Im Chhun Lim said the new troupe of land-measurers was ready for the task ahead, which would take them to 19 provinces.

Their work would form part of a much greater goal for the government, he said.

“We want to measure two million hectares by the end of the first quarter of 2014,”    Chhun Lim said.

The first batch of student volunteers has measured 580,000 hectares — including all of the tiny coastal province of Kep — for 350,000 people.

“The volunteers who achieved this were suitably named as  Samdech Techo Volunteering Youth Heroes by the premier,” Chhun Lim said.

Volunteer student Oeu Chorn, who was part of the first mission, said volunteering to measure land had helped him learn about issues villagers in rural areas faced.

“I now know about the difficulties of people who have been illegally thrown off their land. I wouldn’t have known anything about this if I didn’t go out into the field,” he said.

Pich Sony, who was preparing to be sent to the provinces as part of the new batch of volunteers, said she was very happy to be involved, because she wanted to serve her nation and her people.

Hun Sen said on January 6 that land measuring would not be undertaken during election campaigning, so the second group of volunteers will work until June 15.

Opposition Sam Rainsy legislator Son Chhay said he welcomed the students’ involvement, provided they were not being coerced into politically aligning themselves with the government.

“If they’re not involved in politics, they should continue their work, because their job is important for poor people who are suffering as a result of land disputes,” Chhay said.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com
 

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