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Land title figures released, disputed

Youth volunteers are briefed on Koh Pich before departing Phnom Penh
Youth volunteers are briefed on Koh Pich before departing Phnom Penh to take part in the government’s land measurement and titling scheme in 2012. Heng Chivoan

Land title figures released, disputed

The Ministry of Land Management has given out 3.8 million land titles to Cambodian citizens from 1989 until November this year, according to a statement released on December 22 and obtained by the Post yesterday.

In the same period, the Cambodian government says it had repurposed a total of 1.2 million hectares of land – 380,000 of which came from 134 economic land concession companies, 270,000 from 17 forest concession companies and more than 530,000 hectares from state and forest lands.

Despite the seemingly impressive figure, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have been affected by land disputes, land documents have at times failed to shield residents from eviction and NGOs and the government are quick to disagree over the number of people affected.

“The figure of $3.8 million was counted from the start of the cadastral commission since 1989,” said Lor Davuth, director of the Ministry of Land Management’s General Department of Cadastre and Geography.

Since a May 2012 order, which began a process of land demarcation in the Kingdom, Davuth added that they have released 610,000 land titles.

But while those figures seem accurate, said Chet Charya, executive director of NGO Star Kampuchea, there are still some problems in handing out land titles to citizens.

“There are difficulties in the process of giving land titles . . . because the local people and the authorities themselves don’t study the land well, and sometimes that could cause land conflicts,” Charya said.

According to the ministry’s Davuth, some NGOs – including Adhoc and Licadho – have overblown figures relating to land disputes in the past, creating a negatively skewed picture of land issues in Cambodia. Based on the ministry’s statement, they have encountered a total of 6,558 land conflict cases since 1989 and solved 5,716 cases, which affected 14,719 families.

“The figures released by some NGOs make it feel like it is worse in Cambodia, but the government finds it less serious,” Davuth said.

The cadastral commission’s report on the first six months of the year, however, only recorded 85 complaints affecting 70 families.

By comparison, Adhoc’s count found that 2,617 families have been affected by land disputes in the first three months of 2014 alone, a figure Adhoc’s land protection head Lat Ky defended yesterday.

“Our report on land-related conflicts is a case study where we went into the field and directly met people affected by land disputes,” Ky said.

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