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Despair in Pursat as land policies backflip

Despair in Pursat as land policies backflip

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Youth volunteers depart Phnom Penh last month to take part in a government-initiated land measurement program. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Nineteen families from Pursat province’s Prangil commune, plagued by a long-running land dispute with developer Pheapimex, are in despair now that student volunteer surveyors cannot help them reclaim land they say is rightfully theirs.

Villager Tes Chhieng Ly said that the residents would be forced to take protests to higher levels, after their plans to plead for help from student volunteers measuring their land were thwarted by Wednesday’s policy backflip by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“Now, we don’t know what to do because volunteering youths are told that they have no obligation … we seem hopeless,” Chhieng Ly said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday revealed he had revised his land titling program – announced in June – which aimed to alleviate land disputes by employing over 2,000 university students, at $7 a day, to demarcate villagers’ land in state forests, former timber concessions and economic land concessions.

The amendment means students will no longer measure disputed land and has prolonged the original six-month timeframe of the project.

However, when contacted by the Post yesterday, government spokesmen ?Phay Siphan? and Press and Quick Reaction Unit spokesman Ek Tha both said they had no further details on the program revision or how and when it would be implemented.

His announcement contradicts what Minister of Land Management Im Chhun Lim declared in June ­– that student workers would indeed be posted to areas where “plenty of land conflicts have occurred”.

About 12,000 families are tangled in land disputes on a Pheapimex economic land concession that extends over both Pursat and Kampong Chhang provinces and covers over 315,000 hectares.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]
With assistance from Claire Knox

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