S quatters have told the government it must halt
unofficial buying and selling of public land if it hopes to curb Phnom Penh's
This was one of the major recommendations made at a
conference late last month which brought together city officials and
representatives of squatter communities, which make up an estimated 150,000 of
the city's one million population.
Participants at the conference also
asked the government to grant land ownership rights to people who'd been
squatting for a long time on government-owned land which isn't needed for public
They added that any relocations should only be to areas which are
near squatters' workplaces and have infrastructure in place, including schools,
roads, temples, shops and hospitals.
They also recommended that
squatters who are forced to relocate be given a say in choosing the new sites
and receive land ownership rights to their new land.
representatives told the conference that the rich were profiteering from dealing
in land and exploiting the poor.
The squatters' comments echo claims of
families around Boeng Kak lake that they had bought their land or houses from
people living there previously, with some paying up to $4,000 for a undeveloped
Squatters said land and housing shortages and the absence of a
clear law on land titles made it easy for the rich to speculate on land which
was not legally theirs.
prevent further land speculation by defining legal rights to land ownership
and by making land available to the poor at low prices.
But Minister of
State for Urban Redevelopment Van Moulyvann said defining land ownership rights
would be difficult because many documents and institutions had been destroyed by
the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's.
He said: "The first step must be to
restore all institutions to work on this matter, but that's not an easy process.
"What are we to do?"
Phnom Penh Municipality's Director of Land
Titles Chuun Sothy has already said the government is planning to move all
squatters off land in the city to the surrounding rural districts and build new
villages for them.
But squatters asked that only families who occupy land
earmarked for public development be relocated.
Sothy said after an
inspection tour of the more impoverished squatter communities: "The question is
where do they go once they have been moved? They are very, very poor, it is very
"We must find somewhere else for them to live. The decision to move
them is the committee's and the municipality has to carry it
Moulyvann and the Mayor and Vice Mayor of Phnom Penh accepted the
recommendations, which numbered 15 in total, but said they would be difficult
and would take a long time to implement.
Moulyvann told the squatters,
"The problem is how the government can satisfy such needs. We want you to be
helpful to us by not only showing us your needs but also by helping us satisfy