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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Curbs urged on land speculators

Curbs urged on land speculators

S quatters have told the government it must halt

unofficial buying and selling of public land if it hopes to curb Phnom Penh's

squatter problem.

This was one of the major recommendations made at a

conference late last month which brought together city officials and

representatives of squatter communities, which make up an estimated 150,000 of

the city's one million population.

Participants at the conference also

asked the government to grant land ownership rights to people who'd been

squatting for a long time on government-owned land which isn't needed for public

use.

They added that any relocations should only be to areas which are

near squatters' workplaces and have infrastructure in place, including schools,

roads, temples, shops and hospitals.

They also recommended that

squatters who are forced to relocate be given a say in choosing the new sites

and receive land ownership rights to their new land.

Squatter

representatives told the conference that the rich were profiteering from dealing

in land and exploiting the poor.

The squatters' comments echo claims of

families around Boeng Kak lake that they had bought their land or houses from

people living there previously, with some paying up to $4,000 for a undeveloped

plot.

Squatters said land and housing shortages and the absence of a

clear law on land titles made it easy for the rich to speculate on land which

was not legally theirs.

 

prevent further land speculation by defining legal rights to land ownership

and by making land available to the poor at low prices.

But Minister of

State for Urban Redevelopment Van Moulyvann said defining land ownership rights

would be difficult because many documents and institutions had been destroyed by

the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's.

He said: "The first step must be to

restore all institutions to work on this matter, but that's not an easy process.

"What are we to do?"

Phnom Penh Municipality's Director of Land

Titles Chuun Sothy has already said the government is planning to move all

squatters off land in the city to the surrounding rural districts and build new

villages for them.

But squatters asked that only families who occupy land

earmarked for public development be relocated.

Sothy said after an

inspection tour of the more impoverished squatter communities: "The question is

where do they go once they have been moved? They are very, very poor, it is very

sad.

"We must find somewhere else for them to live. The decision to move

them is the committee's and the municipality has to carry it

out.

Moulyvann and the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Phnom Penh accepted the

recommendations, which numbered 15 in total, but said they would be difficult

and would take a long time to implement.

Moulyvann told the squatters,

"The problem is how the government can satisfy such needs. We want you to be

helpful to us by not only showing us your needs but also by helping us satisfy

them."

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