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Land disputants prove ownership at ministry

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Koh Kong villagers took a photo before they go to protest at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Supplied

Land disputants prove ownership at ministry

Twenty-four people representing 77 families in Koh Sdech and Samrong Takeo communities in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor and Botum Sakor districts were invited to the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on Tuesday to prove ownership of their plots of land.

The families are involved in a decade-long land dispute with Chinese company Union Development Group (UDG).

Saing Puy, one of the 24 community representatives, told The Post on Tuesday that ever since the families submitted a petition to the ministry on December 1 last year, they had frequently requested intervention to resolve the dispute.

She said the ministry had not set a specific deadline for this.

“They ministry asked me to identify the location of my land and asked me how many years I had lived there as they were afraid I had counterfeit documents or had grabbed other people’s or state land. I worked with them honestly because I am not a fraud,” Puy said.

She said the 77 families have been living on the land, covering nearly 150ha, since 1980.

The dispute began more than 10 years ago when UDG began developing the area, she added.

The company destroyed crops and houses, Puy said, and took their land despite the residents having legitimate land titles.

After answering questions at the ministry and filling out documents to indicate the location of the plots, the group of representatives went to the Chinese embassy.

Tith Ten, another community representative, told The Post on Tuesday that the group submitted a petition to the Chinese embassy last year requesting it appeal to UDG on their behalf.

She said embassy officials acknowledged receipt of the petition and told them it was under review.

A Chinese embassy official, who asked not to be named, said he was an adviser to the ambassador who had met the villagers on Tuesday.

“When I have reviewed their documents, I will take them to UDG. However, I can’t force them to listen because it is a private company,” he said.

UDG was granted 36,000ha of economic land concessions to build tourist facilities, a commercial centre, an airport and a golf course at a total cost of $5 billion in 2008.

In 2011, the company leased a further 9,000ha.

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