Bit Traing commune chief Mach Chan on Tuesday appealed to Okhna Lanh Pheara and 77 families and urged them to find an acceptable solution to a land dispute, saying he had received requests from both sides since early October to intervene.
The 77 families are locked in a land dispute in Bit Traing commune’s Pou Thoeung village, in Prey Nop district, Preah Sihanouk province.
Mach Chan told The Post on Tuesday that he asked the families involved in the land dispute with Pheara and land broker Phou Chham to meet a company representative because some of the 77 families had agreed to sell their land to the firm, while others had not.
“We discussed with the company representative to meet with the villagers because they have a headquarters on-site which has a working group on standby. If after checking the documents, [the representatives] see that the villagers have not sold the land, the company will [allocate] land for the villagers.
But if the villagers have already sold land to the company, or cheated and sold the property to other people, the company will see their names on the documents,” Chan said.
The commune chief said that after meeting with the representative of the 77 families, he was told that some of the families had sold their land to other parties and traders but lied about it, thus complicating the dispute.
Chan said that “as a solution for villagers, we want the two sides to negotiate. If the company has not bought the land, [they should] ask the villagers to sell the land. If the villagers refuse, we ask the company to set aside land for the villagers as a solution”.
Pheara’s representative Ban Seiyuth told The Post on Tuesday: “We are willing to look for a solution. For those who bought the land from other people and filled it without knowing that the land already belongs to the oknha, if they spent $10,000 for land filling, we will give them the $10,000 back. If we have not bought the land, we will look for other possible solutions.
Most of the people protesting have already sold their land but continue to occupy the area. Some of the families have had their lands sold by their parents 10 or 20 years ago, yet they remain in the land and even demand for a land title. ”
In order to claim the land, Pheara has asked the protesters to provide a land title to prove their claims of ownership, he added.
O’Thoeung village chief Hay Kork verified that land broker Phou Chham had bought land from the 77 families but that only a portion of the 90ha plot of land was bought.
Kork said: “I also had land but it was a little. Phou Chham came to buy land in our village before I became the village chief in 2012. He came in 1990 when I was a simple villager. But in regards to how many hectares of land he had bought, I do not know.”
Kuy Mab, one of the villagers caught in the dispute, said on Tuesday that the company plans to construct houses on the 90ha plot where the villagers live.
If the company’s plan goes through, the villagers will protest immediately, according to Mab.
However, if the company constructs on areas whose owners do not live in Phnom Penh, then they will not protest.
He said: “The company has warned us against protesting because they say it is not our land. Construction has not started yet on my plot.
They build on 4ha at a time within the whole of the 90ha lot. We filed a complaint with commune authorities, but did not receive any solution. Now, we are seeking further intervention,” he said.