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
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
"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
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
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
Sothy says he doesn't know what the private owners
plan to do with the land, adding that much of it remains
"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
As to the squatters living on the remaining stretch of
privately-owned land, Sothy says the owners are responsible for finding them new
"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."