Khmer Rise Party (KRP) president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung claimed he found irregularities in the distribution of more than 17ha in Kampong Chhnang province that the government had allocated for the relocation of over 500 families from river banks.
Sub-Decree 183, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 2016, stipulates that 17.50ha of concession land located in Kampong Chhnang province’s Khsam commune is to be divided into 525 land plots.
It also states that 10 other plots, amounting to 4ha, are to be used for buildings, parking lots, markets and a garden.
Speaking to The Post on Wednesday, Vathana Sabung – who is also a rotating president of the Supreme Consultation and Advisory Council (SCAC) – alleged that out of 525 families, only 210 families had received the land, and each was required to pay $1,000 to the provincial authority in order for them to get their plot.
A part of the remaining portion, he said, is owned by a private company called “LKL”.
Vathana Sabung alleged that LKL could own the plot because of the provincial authority’s involvement, saying the land was being distributed “unfairly”.
“The provincial authority intended to take the remaining portion of land for sale or other purposes."
“It first claimed to have purchased the plots from a private company before giving them to people [to make it look like they have done the villagers a favour]. This is their trick to gain popularity."
“The distribution was not entirely free, because, in the end, people were asked to pay $1,000 for each plot,” he said.
Vathana Sabung said he had asked the authority to show an agreement regarding the land purchase, and said he will submit the report of his finding to Hun Sen next Monday, “so the prime minister could review the case and take action to stop the irregularities in the land distribution scheme”.
The Post’s attempt to reach LKL representative Ly Leang Kim was unsuccessful. However, reports suggested that the firm had applied for land titles to more than 70,000sqm in that area on Wednesday.
Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun said the land distribution scheme was carried out following “proper legal procedures”.
He said LKL owned land in that area because, in the past, it had purchased the plots from the local people.
The authority collaborated with the private enterprise to benefit all sides, he said.
“The land in the area is not entirely owned by the government. Some parts belong to private entities, such as LKL which began purchasing people’s land when the villagers wanted to sell but could not find any buyer,” Chandoeun said.
According to a letter signed by Chandoeun in January 2017, the provincial authority purchased several plots – each measuring 5m by 20m – from private entities and granted those for free to the villagers who lived along the riverbanks in Phsar Chhnang commune.
It also states that $1,000 was required from each family for the cost of landfilling on each plot.
Sam Chankea, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, lamented that ill-intend people were trying to reclaim those plots for their benefit and urged the government, especially the Anti-Corruption Unit, to investigate this case.
“The provincial administration’s excuses did not justify the scheme. The land belongs to the government, so the distribution should not have involved a private company,” he said.
Vathana Sabung further said that a title to a plot in the area was once revoked by the Ministry of Land Management.
He noted that, somehow, a private company could still obtain another land title which would enable it to sell the plot in just a matter of days.