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Families claim officials took back titled land

Families claim officials took back titled land

Local families allege that commune authorities in Pursat province have taken their land after it was granted to them as part of Prime
Minister Hun Sen’s national land-titling initiative.

More than 60 families in Kbal Trach commune in Krakor district say that volunteer students measured properties for them and issued land certificates, but local authorities deemed the area a wild forest and withheld the documents.

Chreng Phum, representative of the Kbal Trach villagers, said that the certificates were supposed to go out on December 14.

“We have lived here since 1992, and volunteer students measured our lands already, but commune authorities didn’t give [the certificates] to us,” he said yesterday.

He added that the 60 families will send a petition of intervention to the provincial governor today, and if that doesn’t work, to Hun Sen.

“Only Samdech Prime Minister can help us if provincial authorities don’t resolve the situation, because the Prime Minister’s students had measured our lands and gave certificates to us but commune authorities didn’t,” he said.

Hun Sen has dispatched volunteer students all over the country to measure land as a way of settling property disputes, but local resistance has impeded progress in some areas.

Mat Hem, one of the villagers, said the authorities in the province don’t respect the prime minister’s initiative.

“It is not wild forest, and I have controlled it for several years,” he said.

Today he will lead villagers to send petition to provincial governor and civil groups.

Kbal Trach commune chief Doung Sarin said that commune authorities decided to withdraw their land certificates because those lands are in two wild forests: Krachak wild forest and Kralanh Leur.

He said that volunteer students had no clue what they were measuring, and that residents in the area have logged 500 hectares of the wild forest that should be protected.

“We have enough evidence to show them,” he said.

Cheng Lai, provincial chief of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, could not be contacted to comment yesterday.

Phoung Sothea, co-ordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said, based on his investigation, those lands had been controlled by residents for a long time and the wild forests are simply jungle. “I think that authorities are in colusion to gain land and share with each other.”

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