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Villagers decry title tax

RESIDENTS of Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district lodged a complaint with the rights group Adhoc yesterday, claiming they have been hit with an exorbitant “tax” to obtain land titles from the provincial Department of Land Management.

“I went to get my land title at the land management department after my mother divided up her land ... but the officials asked me to pay a tax of US$150 at the tax department in order to obtain the land title,” said Touch Meakkea, a representative of about 200 families in Prek Sleng village, in Prek Sleng commune.

Touch Meakkea, whose mother gave her a 9-by-50-metre plot of land, said that a tax official later suggested that the fee might be negotiable.

“The tax official told me that I cannot get my land title if I don’t have the money to pay them, but they said I could discuss the price with them again,” she said.

“I can give some money to obtain the land title, but I can’t give as much money as they require because I am poor,” she said.

In addition to Touch Meakkea, two other families lodged complaints with Adhoc yesterday requesting official intervention after they were also told to pay a $150 fee for title deeds.

Men Makara, Adhoc’s provincial coordinator, said yesterday that he would investigate the complaints and write to the Department of Land Management about the issue.

The people who have filed complaints have “proclaimed that there are many more families in Prek Sleng village who are having the same problem with the tax officers”, he said.

He said it was suspicious that the tax official had allegedly referred to the fee as negotiable. “No one can reduce or increase the cost of the tax, which has already been approved by the government,” he said.  

Prek Sleng commune chief Meas Sokkhem said yesterday the amount demanded by officials was excessive.

“I have not seen any complaints from my villagers yet, but as far as I know, land owners only have to pay tax officers about 10,000 to 20,000 riels [between $2.50 and $5] to receive their land titles,” she said.

Chhim Kan, chief of the Kandal provincial Department of Land Management, said he did not know how much the three families had been asked to pay or the official fee typically paid to obtain a land title.

“I really asked them to pay to get the land title, but I’m not the one who notes the price for receiving [them],” he said.

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