Phnom Penh Municipal Council chairman Pa Socheatvong said the Municipal Hall has decided to temporarily suspend administrative action against eight families involved in a land dispute at the Russey Keo development area.
Officials will be sent to investigate whether demolishing the houses of the eight families is the best course of action and if it complies with legal procedures.
“We have to review it first because there have been complaints as well as requests for intervention from the relevant institutions regarding the case.
“We have to assess whether the action lines up with legal principles and if there are alternative solutions that could be taken,” said Socheatvong.
The dispute, he noted, was between 177 families, who claimed to have legal ownership of the land, and eight families, who did not own legal land titles, living in the Russey Keo development area.
“The Ministry of Interior asked us to suspend administrative action so we could review it further. If it’s right, we will proceed with the demolition. Otherwise, we’ll have to make some adjustments,” he said.
On December 30, last year, the Ministry of Interior issued an urgent instruction to municipal governor Khuong Sreng to temporarily suspend the demolition to avoid causing damage to villagers’ properties and preserve the original state of the disputed area.
The letter, issued by ministry secretary of state Ngy Chanphal, came after a complaint was filed by the eight families living in Kilometre 6 and Tuol Sangke 2 communes situated within the Russey Keo development area.
The complaint was filed at the ministry and had been approved by its Minister Sar Kheng on December 24, last year.
Kong Ty and Prum Bo, two members from the eight families who filed the complaint, said they have protested nearly 30 years and refused to relocate, saying the solution was not fair to them.
They insisted on a proper solution and asked for a delay while waiting for a ruling from the court.
On December 26, the Russey Keo district committee, led by municipal deputy governor Mean Chanda, went to the area to start demolishing Bo’s property. The authorities also went there on December 27 and 30 to continue demolition of Ty’s property.
Authorities claimed the land on the disputed area will be distributed to the 177 families who had rightful claim to the area.
Protests ensued amid the demolition process, which caused a brief clash between residents and the authorities and led to the arrest of one youth.
According to the letter issued by Chanphal, the complaint was made against district governor Chea Pisey and his subordinates for destroying Bo’s property.
“With regard to this case, the Ministry of Interior requests the Phnom Penh governor [Sreng] to temporarily suspend the administrative action regarding the disputed area so inspection officials can investigate its potential impact to the involved parties and how it would affect the interests of the municipal administration,” said the letter.