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K Thom families fear losing farmland to provincial authority

K Thom families fear losing farmland to provincial authority

Governor asked Hun Sen to slice off 4,000 hectares for rubber plantation development deal, hundreds of Sandan district families say

MORE than 700 families in Kampong Thom province's Sandan district are nervously waiting for provincial authorities to confiscate portions of their land, part of an initiative by the provincial governor to issue deeds for downsized land holdings and provide property to a rubber plantation company, according to the families.

Sao Tok, a representative of the families, said Sunday that since 2006 provincial authorities have sought to take much of the nearly 10,000 hectares they have occupied and farmed since 1986, long enough to claim legal title.

"We heard that the provincial authorities will come here after the election," Sao Tok said. He said his neighbours want official land deeds, but strongly oppose losing land.

On Nov 2, 2007, Kampong Thom Governor Nam Tum wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking to cut the families' holdings to 5,415 hectares, and reclassify 3,914 hectares as state private land.

SQUATTERS RIGHTS

According to Article 30 of the 2001 Land Law, any person who has occupied property peacefully for no less than five years prior to the promulgation of this law has the right to seek title to that property, provided it can

lawfully be privately owned.

Nam Tum's letter did not mention a rubber plantation development, but when a delegation of the families visited Phnom Penh in February to seek help from Hun Sen, they presented a letter naming the UKH Development Co, a rubber plantation company, as intended recipient of their land.

Nam Tum could not be reached for comment Sunday, but Meanrith Commune Chief Chhim Khon said the governor's plan aimed to impose order on a loosely organised squatter community, delineating parcel boundaries and halting land encroachment.

He said each family will get 30 by 50 metres of land on which to reside and three hectares to farm. Now they have about eight.

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