The government on Friday decided to reclaim almost 3,000 hectares of land from a Cambodian People Party’s (CPP) lawmaker and return it to residents in two districts of Kandal province.
According to a letter, dated January 6, from the Council of Ministers to the Ministry of Land Management, 2,997.92 hectares - the vast majority belonging to parliamentarian Lok Hour - was ordered returned to villagers in Kien Svay and Sa’ang districts. The letter said the decision was given the green light by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The land taken from Hour amounts to 2,391 hectares, while the remainder belonged to two other people who had bought land from him Hy Pavy and Um Samreth as well as to one of Hour’s relatives. The government also nullified 29 land titles that had been granted to Hour.
Hour will still possess more than a thousand hectares of land in the area, though portions are disputed by three other businessmen.
Upon receiving the order, Chea Sophara, minister of land management, sent a letter to Kandal Governor Mao Phirun announcing that he would send a team to measure the land and collect relevant data today and on Tuesday.
“Please inform the administrative committee, and inform the land-owning residents and relevant people to cooperate,” he wrote.
Phirun called for a public forum for three of the 17 villages for information purposes.
“[Today] we decide on the location Until the work is completed, it will take about 25 days. We need to make land titles, and during this time, we will solve problems the residents still have,” he said yesterday. He declined to give the number of residents who will benefit from the decision.
Hour had found himself in hot water with the government over alleged land-grabbing, with the ministry barring him in May of last year from buying, selling or transferring any land and forming a special committee to solve disputes that involve his land.
Latt Ky, director of rights group Adhoc’s land dispute division, welcomed the development. “I am happy for the people who get their land back,” he said, adding that he did not believe there were any potential political motivations behind this move.
Neither Hour nor the Ministry of Land Management could be reached for comment yesterday.