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New land titles not recognised: villagers

Ten families locked in a long-standing land dispute with the Pheapimex Group in Pursat province’s Krakor district said yesterday that the company was refusing to recognise titles recently granted to them and blocking them from the land.

“We 10 families have been given more than 30 hectares of land on which each family has more than three hectares, but the company has given only one hectare, and they said the land belongs to them,” said Kbal Trach commune villager Loeung Tho.

After the families were granted titles three months ago – part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s land-titling program – the group began building shelters on the land. Those were dismantled Friday, Tho said. The company couldn’t be reached.

“We have asked for the authorities to help, but they said they can’t do it, because the company is very powerful and only the provincial level can settle it for us. They are just village and commune chiefs. They can’t do anything,” he said.

Owned by Choeng Sopheap, the wife of CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin, Pheapimex was granted 315,028 hectares of land in Pursat and Kampong Chhnang provinces in 2000. In Pursat alone, some 8,200 families have been affected by the project.

Kbal Trach commune chief Duong Sarin said villagers were mistaken about how much land they had been given that overlapped with the company’s.

“In fact, we did it correctly,” said Sarin, who added cadastral officials met with the villagers yesterday to clarify the land demarcation.

Phuong Sothea, the provincial co-ordinator for Adhoc, said there appeared to be a discrepancy between boundaries delineated by the titles and those recognised by local officials.

“A government campaign can reduce a large number of land disputes, but the moves of local authorities do not minimise them. They are increasing disputes.

The local authorities should think about people’s interest rather than the company’s,” he said.

More than 500 families in the area received titles after land measuring, added Sothea, but a number of certificates had been withdrawn or only partially recognised.

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

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