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Indigenous villagers in dispute over land titles

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A view of Mondulkiri province’s Sen Monorom town. Hong Menea

Indigenous villagers in dispute over land titles

Indigenous villagers in Romnea commune of Mondulkiri province’s Sen Monorom town have lodged complaints disputing authorities’ issuance of titles to their lands in the names of unrelated individuals.

From February 1 to 15, commune authorities posted announcements of land titles to be issued and invited the public to verify details prior to results being made official. During that period, however, confusion ensued as many families filed complaints, claiming that titles had been deeded incorrectly.

Local resident Nou Chang claimed that a title for her land had been issued in the name of someone else. In a letter from February 13, she stated that her original complaint had not been accepted by local authorities.

“This is the land that my parents inherited a long time ago. I do not have a plot of land registered in my name, but I have lived on the land for 22 years. I have a home and crops and my neighbours as witnesses. My husband and I strongly oppose the issuance of this land title,” she said.

Roeun Hen, a 37-year-old resident of Poulung village in Romnea commune, told The Post on February 16 that a title for her family’s private land had been issued by authorities in error to someone who was not the rightful landowner.

Furthermore, she said, when notice of title issuance was posted, many people living in the vicinity had found irregularities in the official declarations, including seeing their land allocated to strangers.

“We filed a complaint against this plan with the district administration, but the official on duty did not want to register it. He accepted some but not ours. We will continue to protest if there is no resolution for us,” she said.

Romnea commune chief Phy Ngok told The Post on February 16 that the allocations of titles had been determined by experts in the administration, and citizens’ protests might be due to irregularities in measurement or location data.

Ngok disputed the validity of claims that authorities had refused to accept citizens’ complaints, saying they had all been recorded and referred to higher level officials for review and resolution.

“There was a lot of confusion as we received these complaints. In total, more than 50 people protested. We have submitted them [complaints] to the land management department. The results will be corrected, and then we will continue,” he said.

Kreung Tola, forestry activist and coordinator for the Indigenous People Network, said all public administration documents must be collected pertaining to cases of citizens seeking intervention.

He said it appeared that citizens were facing injustice on account of incorrect issuance of land titles while their claims were dismissed as officials pushed responsibility from one institution to another.

“Administrative procedures should be revised in Mondulkiri province. We should not deny people their rightful documents.

“Now the problem is systemic, and when people protest, their complaints are not registered. National and local officials should review this issue to find a solution for the real landowners,” he said.

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