Prime Minister Hun Sen’s tour of all 25 provinces, in which he has pledged to “find solutions” for local issues, continued on the weekend with a visit to Kampong Thom, where he pledged to return the ownership of land around the Tonle Sap to local residents for farming purposes.
“The land in the Tonle Sap region must be taken from companies and investors and left for the people to farm,” Hun Sen declared in a Facebook post.
Most of the land in the area is currently owned and farmed by large firms and investors.
A government directive was issued demanding the return of Tonle Sap land in all provinces to the local residents in 2014, but without result.
Hell Tony, secretary-general of the Tonle Sap Authority, said: “The people who live around there do not have any land for farming. The government already issued a directive not allowing investors to farm in the Tonle Sap area,” he said.
Independent political analyst Ou Virak expressed mixed feelings about the directive’s likelihood of success.
“I think he’s been trying to do more to satisfy the people,” Virak said. “I do hope he means it this time,” Virak said.
Hun Sen, however, does not have complete control over the country’s complicated system of patronage, he added.
During the same visit, Hun Sen also announced that all vendors working in the Kampong Thom Market must be given ownership of their stalls and be allowed to sell indefinitely. Currently, they can only rent their stalls for a limited amount of time.