Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed municipal and provincial governors across the country to take measures against any individuals who build fences that encroach on state land and affect public interests in their localities.
The prime minister gave these instructions after receiving reports about disputes caused by illegal fences that have blocked public roads.
“Local authorities should have removed the fences once the [perpetrators] started building them. These fence builders [who] blocked public roads should have been educated or subjected to administrative [penalties],” he said.
On January 15, Kep provincial governor Som Piseth ordered his officials to tear down stone fences and steel gates along a road in O’Krasar commune’s Damnak Chambak village in Kep town.
“The fences and gates had been built illegally to block the road used by people from the salt marsh areas,” Piseth said.
The prime minster praised the measures by the provincial governor that were taken in consideration of the local community’s common interests.
“We must not let one or two individuals undermine the interests of the public and cause strife. We must solve such problems in all provinces,” he said.
Neither government spokesman Phay Siphan nor Piseth could not be reached for comment on January 17.
But Piseth said earlier on January 15: “The removal of the fences and gates was to revert [things] to their original state and keep the roads open for public use.”
Piseth also called on the general public not to follow the bad example of the fence builders.
Equitable Cambodia executive director Eang Vuthy said on January 17 that cases of disputes involving public land have continued across the country with the involvement of the powerful and wealthy as well as ordinary people.
He said they had illegally built fences to surround the land to claim it as their own which is against the public interest.
He also expressed concern over transferring state land ownership to private individuals because this results in the loss of public access. He said if the national government is slow to solve these land matters then they should be delegated to the provincial authorities to find solutions.
“When state land is encroached on by private interests it affects everyone who relies on the land for their livelihoods. This doesn’t need to be fixed by the top leadership. Provincial governors should figure out how to solve this on their own,” he said.