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Land disputes plummet: gov’t

Villagers from Koh Kong province march towards the National Assembly earlier this month to deliver a petition calling for government intervention in a land dispute.
Villagers from Koh Kong province march towards the National Assembly earlier this month to deliver a petition calling for government intervention in a land dispute. Hong Menea

Land disputes plummet: gov’t

Ministry of Land Management spokesman Seng Lot on Radio France International yesterday trumpeted a 90 per cent dip in the number of registered land disputes in Cambodia amid major strides by the ministry’s land-titling program.

“There used to be nearly 7,500 cases, now the latest statistics we have gathered from every city and province show that we have solved all but about 700 cases,” Lot said. “About 7 million plots of land need to be registered; as of now, we have finished 62 per cent.”

Multiple representatives at the Ministry of Land Management, including Lot, Minister Chea Sophara and Secretary of State Sarun Rithea, could not be reached yesterday to clarify over what time period this decrease had taken place.

But Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy at rights group Licadho, yesterday said while her NGO did not have figures for this year, last year’s suggested there had been no slowdown in the emergence of new land disputes.

“Our last count of investigations in 2015 showed continued increase in the number of land disputes and conflicts,” Pilorge wrote yesterday.

Chea Sophara took charge of the Land Management Ministry in April and ordered the establishment of land dispute resolution teams in one of his earliest acts. In July, 27 four-man land dispute resolution teams were created to address an initial 84 complaints across the country.

“Land issues are complicated. The ministry said they will be responsible, and that’s a very good comment, but we’ll wait to see the action,” Eang Vuthy, executive director of land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia, said at the time.

Current land disputants spoken to by the Post yesterday expressed doubt at the claims of widespread success.

Teng Kao, engaged in a land dispute with the Thai-owned Koh Kong Sugar and Plantation companies since 2006, said yesterday he could not believe the number of disputes could have gone down.

“Before, the disputes were only in Sre Ambel, now they’re in Botum Sakor district [as well],” Kao said. “I think it’s not good. If it was good they would have come to find a solution for us.”

In Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nop district, Hour Sino represents a community of 306 families locked in a land dispute with a water supply company. She was not convinced by either Lot’s titling or dispute resolution claims.

“I think this is just an excuse to avoid solving land disputes for people,” Sino said. “I don’t see any concrete results in any region that would suggest land titles are being allocated properly.”

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