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Ministry asserts power over state private land

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Land management minister Chea Sophara at a meeting recently. Land Management Ministry

Ministry asserts power over state private land

The Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has reasserted its authority to conduct cadastral surveys of land plots that aim to establish leaseholder rights over state private land.

State private land is legally defined as all property that belongs to the state but does not have a public interest value. This land can be allocated or transferred by the state but it must be listed in the national inventory first.

Land management minister Chea Sophara sent a letter regarding this issue to the ministers of Interior; National Defence; and Economy and Finance on January 18.

In the past the granting of leaseholder rights on state private land has been done without any examination or verification from the Cadastral Administration.

Sophara explained that there have been cases where the measurement and demarcation of land plots for such purpose had been undertaken without verification.

He said this could result in inaccurate land plots, duplicate plots and other errors that could lead to future land disputes.

To avoid these problems, the minister requests that the ministries and institutions that are the authorities in charge of state private land, as well as the municipal and provincial administrations, follow the guidelines to avoid further complications regarding the provision of ownership and leaseholder rights to state private land.

“All cadastral surveys of land plots shall be carried out and verified by the cadastral Administration, which is the only authorised entity in measuring and demarcating land boundaries in accordance with the land law,” the minister said in the letter.

The municipal and provincial administrations shall assign land management and cadastral survey officials to measure and determine standards and verify them with the cadastral database system.

In addition, the ministry emphasises that all land parcel survey data used for making requests to the government to grant ownership or leaseholder rights to state private land must be sent to the ministry’s General Department of Cadastre and Geography, which is tasked with managing the national cadastral database system for review and advance lease verification. All leases of state private land must be registered and titles issued in advance.

Ministry spokesman Seng Lot declined to comment.

But Theng Chan Sangvar, the ministry’s secretary of state, confirmed on his Facebook page that the General Department of Cadastral and Geography was the only gateway to managing the country’s cadastral database system.

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeung Sen Karua said he believes that the survey, measurement and demarcation of the land parcels are clearly the responsibility of the land management departments throughout the country.

He also said that in the past some institutions that have had the responsibility to manage [these] land plots have tried to measure them or lease them out without providing information to the ministry.

Once the ministry has re-established its authority it will make the land easier to keep track of and less vulnerable to misappropriation he said.

Sen Karua hopes that the culture of impunity that allows powerful officials to seize state private land for themselves and ignore administrative procedures will be put to an end by these and other reforms.

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