Dozens of families in Preah Sihanouk province are concerned they will lose their land after hearing that a tycoon is seeking the local authority’s approval to transfer ownership of over 500ha to him, while the families claim the actual area of land he owns is only some 5ha.
Suy Srey Mom, a member of one of the 42 families, told The Post on Sunday that late last month, Oknha Sok Bun supplied documents to the local authority as proof of ownership of the land in Koh Rong commune’s Prey Svay village.
The documents say the land, which he purchased from a man named Ma Sy who came to live in the village in 2002, measures 5,000m by 1,050m.
However, the local authority noticed some irregularities and has so far refused to sign the documents and acknowledge his land ownership.
“According to Ma Sy’s wife and the local authority, the land that Ma Sy sold to a Phnom Penh resident covered only 500m by 105m, not 5,000m by 1,050m. This is what worried local residents and local officials,” Srey Mom said.
Hean Sok Khay, another villager, who has owned more than 3ha of farm and residential land since she came to live in the village in 2012, said that in the middle of last year, Bun and his group came to measure land in the area, but the measurement process was not finalised.
“The government granted official land titles to my family and more than 40 other families in 2015. I don’t know why the Okhna produced fake documents to try and take over our land,” she said.
She said that on Friday, people from her village submitted a petition to Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall seeking intervention from provincial governor Yun Min to provide justice for the villagers.
Prey Svay village chief Keo Pov and Koh Rong commune chief Seng Hour Leang told The Post that they became suspicious after reviewing Bun’s documents, having been asked to provide signatures to confirm the size of the land he had purchased.
“No one who lives in my village has land covering anything like that area. Never mind 500ha, no one even owns 10ha of land, so I cannot sign the documents. It’s highly irregular,” said Pov.
Hour Leang told The Post on Sunday: “We accept that Oknha Sok Bun owns land in that area covering some 5ha.
“The case has been taken to the provincial authority by the villagers, so I hope there will be an intervention to ascertain the truth. I hope the provincial authority won’t ignore this problem,” he said.
On Sunday, The Post tried to reach Bun through a phone number obtained by a local resident. We asked a number of questions – including where the 500ha were purchased from – a social land concession, an economic land concession, or from local residents and what were the intended development projects – but the person hung up the phone.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun told The Post on Sunday that when buying and selling real estate, documents should be reviewed carefully.
“In truth, I don’t know the history of the land dispute in this area. Maybe the buyer bought from many previous landowners, and so collectively now owns 500ha."
“However, if he purchased the land from only one person as the villagers and local authorities have claimed, he should face criminal charges for faking public documents. The important point is whether or not the villagers file a lawsuit at the court to investigate."
“If they just submit a petition to national or provincial authorities seeking intervention, it will be difficult to end the dispute,” he said.