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The great Bassac carve-up

The great Bassac carve-up

The land at the former Bassac squatter camp, which was destroyed in a huge blaze

last November that was widely seen as suspicious, has been returned to its

"rightful owners", according to a Phnom Penh Municipality map seen by the

Post.

The rightful owners of the site are businessman Teng Boonma and the

two sons of the late okhna Sou Sroun. The director of the municipality's land

titling department, Chhuon Sothy, says they have owned the land since

1991.

"I don't know how much they paid for it because I came in 1993 and

haven't got the documents," he says. "It depends on the zoning and the level of

the land."

However Sothy says that Teng Boonma's 13 hectares of land has

been filled and is worth $600 per square meter. In comparison, the low land

behind the nearby Japanese and Thai embassies is worth just $30 per square

meter.

The map also reveals the rightful owners of the remaining prime

riverside property stretching south to the Monivong Bridge. The government says

the 25 hectares between Cambodiana Hotel and the bridge is owned by around 20

Cambodian businessmen.

Sothy says he doesn't know what the private owners

plan to do with the land, adding that much of it remains

undeveloped.

"The municipality sent a letter to the owners last month

asking them to develop the land or plant grass on it," he says. "And they must

pay tax on unused land."

The municipality says Sou's sons Sou Sokheng and

Sou Chhoeun, purchased 10 hectares of land at Anlong Gong for the fire victims.

However an estimated 1,391 families remain squatting at Bassac commune, some of

them on state land, others on land owned by the brothers.

Both Sothy and

the chief of the municipality's cabinet, Mann Chhoeurn, say they are unsure when

these people will be moved or where they will go. Both say the government has no

money to buy land for those squatting on public property near the

river.

As to the squatters living on the remaining stretch of

privately-owned land, Sothy says the owners are responsible for finding them new

sites.

"It is not up to the municipality to buy land for them, it is up

to the private owners," he says. "The owners should find land and divide it into

lots or share some land they already own. In my opinion Teng Boonma needs to buy

land and move the people."

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