Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly castigated the Kampong Thom provincial governor in a speech on Saturday for allegedly claiming a large portion of land and saying it was needed for the local office of the Cambodian Red Cross, an agency lead by Hun Sen’s wife, Bun Rany.
He brought up the provincial governor, Chhun Chhorn, during a ceremony to distribute land titles to citizens in Kampong Chhnang province’s Kraing Leav commune. Chhorn had submitted a proposal, later rejected by the prime minister’s office, that 500 hectares of land be used for the Cambodian Red Cross.
He warned people to be wary of officials who attempt to acquire property using the name of the medical agency.
“Please back away immediately if the provincial Red Cross is involved with lands,” he said in the speech, before offering another blunt warning to the officials themselves.
“Don’t use my name and my wife’s name to grab lands.”
Chhorn told the Post that nobody controlled the land when he submitted the proposal, but 250 families have set up makeshift homes there now, and their timing couldn’t have been better.
Hun Sen, in the same speech, called on plots to be given to the new residents.
Volunteer students who have been measuring land all over the country as part of a land titling initiative will help out, he added.
Chhorn said he was pleased that a solution that accords property to the people already living there had been achieved, and that the job was, in fact, already under way.
“Now, volunteer students are working on those lands,” he said.
“Before, we had difficulty, but now, it is easy, because we have a recommendation,” he added.
Chheng Sophors, investigating official for human rights group Licadho, said that on behalf of civil groups, he welcomed the prime minister’s recommendation, because it had been a common occurrence for officials to drop the names of even more powerful officials.
“This is the best step, that people won’t lose their lands due to the cheating of officials or dealers,” he said.
While he appreciated the warning from the highest office in the land, he said he was worried that it might not be followed on the ground.
He expressed concern that the “subordinates and their subordinates won’t follow the prime minister’s recommendation”, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]