Prime Minister Hun Sen has issued a directive banning people from renting or selling border land to people from neigbouring countries in an effort to maintain Cambodia’s “national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The directive, which was signed by the premier on Tuesday, says Cambodians are “forbidden from renting or selling their rice paddy land, farmland, or houses located along the border to people from neighbouring countries”.
It says the order has been given to “protect [Cambodia’s] right to hold the land and the legal benefits [of having it] and to boost the living standards of Cambodians living along the border”.
Doing so, it adds, will maintain “national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
The directive calls on provincial authorities to ensure that people are obeying the orders. It says land already legally being rented out can remain in the hands of the tenant until the end of the contract, from which point the owner will need to reclaim it for good.
Meanwhile, it says, the government will send letters to the leaders of neighbouring countries asking for their cooperation in banning their citizens from renting or buying Cambodian land.
Hun Sen announced plans for the directive in a post on his Facebook page on Friday in which he said Cambodians would be ordered not to rent land to “Vietnamese nationals and Thai and Laotian people to avoid problems”.
The past year has seen heightened tensions between Cambodia and Vietnam over disputed borderland.
Tol Brasat, a Cambodia National Rescue Party secretary in Kandal province, welcomed the directive, which he said had been a long-time coming.
He said in Koh Thom district’s Prek Chrey and Sampov Luon communes, swathes of land have been rented out to Vietnamese nationals because locals haven’t had the money or resources to cultivate it.
“When they rent the land, they bring their families to live on it. Then they create family records, birth certificates and identity cards by colluding with authorities,” he said.
“Renting [in this way] is a significant threat to the country.”
Brasat added that if the issue wasn’t quickly addressed, border tensions would only get worse.
Kandal Governor Mao Pirun could not be reached.