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Families on ‘state land’ in Phnom Penh press for titles

Por Sen Chey district villagers talk with a Ministry of Land Management official yesterday after ministerial ownership signs were posted in their community.
Por Sen Chey district villagers talk with a Ministry of Land Management official yesterday after ministerial ownership signs were posted in their community. Touch Sokha

Families on ‘state land’ in Phnom Penh press for titles

Nearly 50 villagers living along the southern railway line from Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district yesterday petitioned the Ministry of Land Management, demanding titles to land they claim to have inhabited since 1979.

The villagers, from the district’s Kakab and Samrong Krom communes, said 178 families living on the 98-hectare plot have become increasingly concerned after the Transportation Ministry put up a sign last week claiming the land was state-owned.

“Villagers were very shocked to see the sign, which said the land was the ministry’s property,” said 69-year-old villager Soth Pha. “We want His Excellency [Minister of Land Management] Chea Sophara to issue us land titles.”

While the villagers were not evicted during the railway line’s construction, they say remaining and receiving proper titles was necessary for their livelihoods.

“We are afraid of losing our land; we depend on the land,” said another villager, Seng Born. “If we have the title, we can use it as collateral for getting loans from the bank to run businesses.”

The petition was received yesterday by the ministry’s working group member, Lay Phalim, who said that the group was looking into the villagers’ case.

Ministry spokesman Va Sim Sorya said the sign was put up as part of the ministry’s efforts to demarcate state-owned land and that no development was planned yet.

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