Student volunteers working as part of the government’s land titling scheme are again being accused of refusing to measure land – this time in Pursat province – because they say those living there have done so illegally, according to villagers.
Villagers in Bakan district said the students accused them of living on a social land concession slated for handicapped and retired soldiers.
About 300 families have asked rights group Adhoc to intervene; they say they have been living on the land since 2002, and the land concession was only granted in 2011.
Villager Chin Pheoun, 52, said she moved there after receiving permission from village and commune officials.
“We have papers signed by the local officials, but they [the students] said those papers are invalid and this area is in the government social land concession. If that’s the case, why did local officials allow us to live there?” she said.
“Please, I need the youth volunteers to measure my land, because I am a widow and have eight children, and I can’t raise my children if I don’t have the land.”
Villagers are threatening to take their case to Prime Minister Hun Sen if provincial officials don’t resolve the dispute.
Somsan village chief Muorng Oul said the number of families living on the land had increased from about 300 to up to 800 in recent years.
“Most of them came to live there when the government announced it would give land to poor people who do not have exact land.”
Soa Dareoung, governor of Bakan district, not be reached for comment yesterday, but Adhoc’s provincial coordinator Phourng Sophea said most people had been farming the area for between five and 10 years.
“Those villagers with papers signed by local officials must receive their land titles because they have lived there for a long time and they don’t have any exact land,” he added.
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]