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Land minister grilled at NA

Minister of Land Management Im Chhum Lim (right) answers questions at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh yesterday morning as part of a human rights commission.
Minister of Land Management Im Chhum Lim (right) answers questions at the National Assembly in Phnom Penh yesterday morning as part of a human rights commission. Heng Chivoan

Land minister grilled at NA

The government plans to distribute another 800,000 hectares of land to some 200,000 families as part of its land-titling scheme, the minister for land management announced yesterday after being grilled by lawmakers.

After facing questions from the National Assembly’s Human Rights and Complaints Commission, Minister Im Chhum Lim told reporters that, since 1989, the government had given out four million land titles, which meant its plan was “57 per cent” complete.

He said that a renewed push that began in 2012 had seen some 1.2 million hectares of land reclassified and distributed to 400,000 families.

The overall plan, he said, would distribute some 2 million hectares for 600,000 families.

A ministry spokesman later further clarified that the 400,000 families included in the new push had received 610,000 land titles, he said.

Future plans, however, weren’t the thrust of the commission’s questioning yesterday, with Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker and chairman Eng Chhay Eang demanding Chhum Lim intervene to release three people detained in two separate land dispute cases.

“In 2006, I remember the prime minister said that he won’t let any villagers be arrested for land disputes,” Chhay Eang said.The minister agreed to investigate the cases.

The first case concerns brothers Hou Kimhea and Hou Thuy, who have been held at the provincial military police headquarters in Kampot since Tuesday.

According to Kimhea’s wife, Ma Thina, 37, the men were arrested by military police and officials that were measuring Thuy’s plot. She said two other relatives were in hiding.

Thina said she had heard their 800-family commune, Decho Aphiwat, which the villagers set up from cleared forest in 2006, had been earmarked as a social concession for retired soldiers, despite gaining official recognition via a sub-decree in 2011.

“My husband rode a bike to visit his brother Thuy at home to see the authorities, including military police officials, measuring the land,” Thina said, noting the pair were among 500 of the villagers without land titles.

“They were both then invited to the provincial military police station to be questioned. They’ve been detained since.”

Sem Soeun, provincial deputy military police commander, responsible for the arrests, could not be contacted.

The second case raised involves a man jailed for several months in Phnom Penh for a land dispute in Dangkor district’s Prek Kampus commune, although few details were given to reporters.

According to ministry spokesman Seng Lot, the body had 700 unresolved land dispute complaints on file.

Since 2003, the ministry had received 7,000 cases, although 2,000 were deemed outside their jurisdiction, he said.

The meeting yesterday also covered the granting of 1,000 hectares to 350 families in Oddar Meanchey province, a dispute in Kratie province’s Snuol district and three in Sihanoukville province.

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