On Wednesday, 22 communities in Preah Sihanouk province urged provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun to expedite the issuance of their land titles.
In their latest attempt to find a solution to the territorial disputes they are embroiled in, representatives of disputant groups from Stung Hav, Prey Nop and Kampong Seila districts, as well as from Sihanoukville and Koh Rong, met with Chamroeun.
You Veasna, a representative of a Stung Hav community, said the disputants raised two main points as to land boundaries and legal measure implementation in the protest.
Firstly, Veasna said, the communities requested the authorities to properly demarcate land boundaries and allocate some plots to the poor.
Secondly, they claimed that the court system sided with the rich and powerful while threatening the communities and jailing them, Veasna said.
He also said the villagers were fed up with the prolonged disputes which had resulted in losses of much of their time and materials.
“The provincial governor said he acknowledged our demands, with 91 case documents already in his hands.
“He said he would try to consolidate the cases in a way that is understandable and effective for each community. So, we have a lot of hope,” he said.
Responding to the communities’ demand, governor Chamroeun promised to take step-by-step procedures to follow up with the groups’ call for action against the perpetrators behind the illegal filling of coastal areas and clearing of forest lands.
Chamroeun maintained that the provincial administration had received all the documents from the groups, but noted that his team could not solve everything in one go.
“For the cases that have been submitted to the court, our provincial administration has no rights to intervene. Therefore, you must get yourselves a lawyer to defend your cases,” he told the representatives in the meeting.
Chamroeun called on the disputants to be patient while the provincial administration works on the cases gradually. The governor also appealed to the communities not to occupy state- and privately-owned land.
“[Government] officials are here to serve the people and to protect public order and security to contribute to the development of the province and to alleviate poverty at local levels,” he said.
Cambodian National Research Organisation director Sok Sokhom said there were rich and powerful individuals behind the illegal filling of Kampenh beach and encroachment on forest land in the Ream National Park, despite the latter having been designated a protected area.
He appealed to the provincial administration to review the cases and take measures against the perpetrators without being influenced by their power and material possessions.
“If the authorities ignore these cases, [Preah Sihanouk] province will always be mired in illegal reclamation and deforestation,” Sokhom said.