The government has set the criteria which must be met for long-term residents to be granted state property, and while civil society groups said it was a positive move, they asked the government to speed up the process of granting the land.
Under the new conditions, people must be acknowledged by the authorities to have lived on government land for at least 10 years.
The directive, signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen on July 23, stated that people have the right to occupy government land as long as they have proof, which can be confirmed by the local authority, that they have been residing there for at least 10 years.
It said people can only be granted ownership if they rely on the land for their livelihoods and have no other land or property. Their other possessions must be valued properly and fairly by any acceptable means, the directive said.
“This provision is designed to achieve fairness and to serve people’s need to secure their livelihoods and cultivate crops for their families, while also preventing the exploitation of government property,” the directive said.
A joint committee would be established involving the Ministry of Economy and Finance and other relevant authorities to determine land sizes and general housing standards.
“The granting of land will be based on the actual situation on the ground and will be assessed equally and fairly,” the directive said.
It said property values would be assessed using market prices or according to the same principles used by the General Department of Taxation to determine tax-avoidance, and would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
“Before they can request official ownership titles as a social land concession, residents must live on the land for five years after it is granted to them by the government.
“But in some circumstances, the government can decide how to proceed based on the actual situation,” the directive said.
Dok Doma, the deputy director of the General Department of Housing at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the director of the Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development Project II, said on Sunday that villagers who do not have land can write a letter to their local authority.
The authority will then assess their livelihoods and determine if they qualify for a social land concession, he said.
“Social land concessions are reserved for poor people who do not have land to live on or if their land is too small for them. Then the government will grant state land,” Doma said.
Rights group Adhoc senior investigator Soeng Sen Karuna applauded the government directive but said local authorities were too slow to issue social land concessions to villagers.
“It’s great that the government is considering these cases, but the process needs to be speeded up. It looks good on paper, but the execution is poor.
“I hope that now the directive has been issued, there will be a process to avoid any irregularities,” he said.
Sen Karuna said he had also noticed that people are sometimes relocated to areas with inadequate infrastructure, making it difficult for them to live there.