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Final mission for volunteers

Youth volunteers depart Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich to take part in a land measurement program in 2012
Youth volunteers depart Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich to take part in a land measurement program in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Final mission for volunteers

In their final deployment as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s national land-titling program, 55 student youth volunteers will be sent to measure 50,000 hectares of land following a nearly six-month moratorium on the program.

The deployment was officially launched at a ceremony in Kandal province yesterday by Hun Manith, the prime minister’s middle son.

So far, the volunteers have measured about 1.2 million hectares of land across the country out of an estimated two million expected to be measured under the scheme.

Im Chhun Lim, minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, said the more than 800,000 hectares of land that remains to be measured will be the responsibility of surveyors from the ministry.

“More than 800,000 hectares of land is not a challenge [to measure], but it is under forest cover, so we will use the ministry forces,” he said.

The scheme, launched in May last year, aimed to measure two million hectares across the country so that an estimated 500,000 households would have a better chance of claiming their rights to the land. It was suspended on June 20 by Hun Sen due to rules banning campaigning during the election period.

The scheme has received mixed reviews, with some reporting positive experiences working with the volunteers, saying they had assisted them in obtaining ownership documentation for their land. Others, however, have complained of threats and intimidation.

Kuch Veng, a community representative from Pursat province’s Krokor district, where there is an ongoing dispute with powerful developer Pheapimex, said the volunteers had avoided measuring land where disputes between locals and companies were ongoing.

“This action is not effective; it only increases opportunities for business people and the rich to have legal land,” he said.

The first phase of the program went down well with locals, according to Chan Soveth, a senior investigator for rights group Adhoc. But the second phase was plagued with malign influence from companies and the authorities, he added.

“What we are worried about is that those who used to exploit state land have become the landowners, while disputes still exist,” he said.

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