A commune chief in Kandal province has denied local media reports that he and some 50 families colluded to secretly sell nearly 250ha of state-owned lake land in Prekbak and Speandek villages, in Loeuk Dek district’s Prek Tonloap commune.
The provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director said his officials would inspect the site and take back the land if it had been sold.
The reports claimed that Prek Tonloap commune chief Ngeu Sary encouraged residents of Prekbak and Speandek villages to provide fingerprints to secretly sell 239.145ha of state land to real estate traders.
“The media outlets just went ahead and published this without asking me for detailed information. I don’t know where the documents are from. The case is not related to me and I didn’t sign those documents,” Sary said.
He acknowledged that parts of the land had been used for fishing and agriculture, but said many of the people involved were from outside his jurisdiction.
“Citizens can claim legal ownership of land as long as certain conditions are met, but no one is allowed to sell state land,” Sary said.
A 10-page document containing fingerprints and the names of some 50 families was published by the media outlets.
The report said they had occupied plots of land between 20,000sqm and 55,000sqm, but the document was not dated. Sary said he would check the names and investigate further.
Kandal provincial Department of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director Lim Chan Sophy said he had never received any requests to register the land as private property.
He said his department would inspect the site and accelerate legal procedures to register the land under state ownership to avoid any illegal grabbing.
Sophy said citizens are permitted to earn a living on the lake and live and farm on it during the dry season, but they were not allowed to claim it as their private property.
“We will inspect the site and see how much land is involved, then we will register it as state land. We will also check the documents and assess whether any state land has been illegally encroached on. They can only earn a living in that area and not occupy it.
“Anyone who buys state land will have it confiscated and they will waste their money. The buyer is not in a position to protest because, according to the law, state land cannot be sold,” he reiterated.