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Mondulkiri land decision annulled

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Members of groups locked in a land dispute between a Bunong ethnic community and more than 100 families gather in Mondulkiri province. Photo supplied

Mondulkiri land decision annulled

Mondulkiri provincial governor Svay Sam Eang has issued an announcement nullifying the provincial administration’s 2015 decision that granted a portion of the Doh Kramom Mountain area to the Ministry of Mines and Energy.

On June 3, 2015, the provincial hall agreed to cede a 5.07ha plot to the ministry for the construction of a mine, energy and petroleum research centre.

But in a letter dated March 18 and obtained by The Post on Thursday, Sam Eang said the government was now planning to preserve the mountain as a cultural centre and enlist it as a world heritage site.

The provincial hall also reversed its previous decisions that granted a 25m by 50m plot of land and another 25m by 50m plot within the mountain compound to the Department of Industry and Handicrafts and the Department of Civil Service, respectively.

“[The provincial authority] has requested the Department of Culture and Fine Arts to study, assess and prepare paperwork to be forwarded to the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction regarding a proposal to enlist the Doh Kramom Mountain as a world heritage site,” said the letter.

The governor’s announcement was largely symbolic as the Ministry of Mines and Energy earlier this month issued a press release clarifying that the ministry had actually returned the land to the provincial hall since 2016.

In its letter dated October 4, 2016, the ministry said the decision to return the land came after it found an alternative plot to build its research centre near Phnom Penh.

Sey Touch, the provincial Department of Culture and Fine Arts director, told The Post on Thursday that his department had already prepared plans and paperwork to request the listing of the Doh Kramom Mountain as a national and world heritage site.

“We do it in two phases. First, we need to wait for the government and provincial authority to end a land dispute in the area. Only after the dispute ends can we do the rest.

“I think national-level authorities would need to jump in to solve the [land dispute] issue in the area. When a compromise is reached, I will submit a request to the prime minister for an approval to enlist the area,” he said.

The dispute centres around land housing the Hill Tribes Cultural Centre in an area claimed by both a Bunong ethnic community and more than 100 families.

The community representative, Kreung Tola, told The Post on March 6 that Prime Minister Hun Sen had, in 2004, allocated 102ha of land from the foot of the mountain to the peak for the Hill Tribes Cultural Centre.

However, he said there were now over 100 families and two karaoke parlours encroaching while the authorities delayed demarcating land for the centre, despite an order from the prime minister last month.

Sey Touch of the culture department said experts would conduct another study of the cultural and intangible heritage of the ethnic minorities in the area.

“We will gather information to be submitted for an approval to list it as a national heritage site. After that, we will submit another proposal to enlist it as a world heritage site.

“This area has many important features such as a collection of religious heritages of the ethnic minorities, which are highly praised by foreigners and our King, and especially the history of the ethnic minorities.”

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