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Govt hails land concessions

Govt hails land concessions

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Soldiers guard Preah Vihear temple in July. The government says it is has given 20,000 hectares of land concessions to retired and disabled soldiers.

20,000 hectares handed to poor, disabled soldiers since 2007.

THE government has given away more than 20,000 hectares of state land since 2007 as social land concessions to the families of poor and disabled war veterans as a supplement to their national pensions, according to a statement issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.

Since 2007, the government had cleared 2,057 hectares of forested land in Siem Reap, 1,200 hectares for 240 disabled soldiers in Kampot, 173 hectares for 100 families in Stung Treng and 16,400 hectares for 1,912 families in Preah Vihear province’s Choam Ksan district, according to the statement.

“The main issue in providing social land concessions to the ex-armed forces is to set up a social safety net for those who have poor families so that they can build houses and cultivate the land,” read the statement.

Prak Chanthoeun, director general at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said Thursday that the government had formed a committee to evaluate the situation of retired and disabled soldiers in order to ensure they are eligible for the land.

“The land is offered as an incentive for what they have devoted to the nation,” Prak Chanthoeun said. “The offer is only open to the real poor and landless soldiers.”

Mu Sochua, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said the social land concessions were a priority for poor and disabled troops but said the division and granting of the land should be conducted transparently and confined to areas that are suitable for agriculture.

“It should be real retired or disabled soldiers who get the land, and the division should be equal,” she said.

Prak Chanthoeun said the committee was seeking additional land for the concession programme and was conducting research about the number of retired or disabled soldiers needing land.

The government is currently spending about US$1 million a month supporting about 100,000 disabled and retired soldiers and the widows of those who have died in service. When their families are included – parents, widows and children – the Ministry of Social Affairs is responsible for about 600,000 people.

Hong Sreysambath, director of the ministry’s Pension Office, said he had deleted some old names of retired, disabled or deceased war veterans, but that the new names on the pension payroll were increasing yearly.

“The ministry is auditing and reviewing the exact number of ex-armed forces receiving pensions,” he said.

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