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Occupiers of disputed land receive ‘conditional titles’

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Villagers gather on the disputed land in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district. Heng Chivoan

Occupiers of disputed land receive ‘conditional titles’

The government has issued conditional land title receipts to 326 families occupying disputed state-owned land at the “Chamkar Barang” area in Tuol Prich commune of Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district. It is also looking into a policy settlement while the provincial governor investigates and identifies any land encroachment which could make the documents null and void.

Authorities have reiterated that the titles do not indicate land ownership.

Tuol Prich commune police chief Chik Sophea told The Post on July 13 that protesters at Chamkar Barang had not yet received any compensation. However, the provincial administration, together with inter-ministerial officials, had already measured the land and issued receipts to the 326 families, equivalent to 419 plots of land.

He said people have not protested since receiving the receipts and are waiting for a decision from the provincial administration and inter-ministerial officials.

“I saw surveyors measure and allocate land that people depend on, but we have not received any compensation yet,” he said.

Koam Rith, an Ang Taset villager in Tuol Pich commune, said provincial authorities had not allocated land or issued compensation to people for more than a month, but they had issued receipts to everyone.

He declined to provide details, saying only that the receipts were signed by the village, commune and district chiefs.

However, despite having this receipt, authorities will not allow people to cultivate or engage in any other activities on the land.

“The issue has not gone away. Other people also don’t know what is happening. I’m wondering too. At least let the village chief know what is happening so he can explain it to the people. But neither the village nor the commune chief knows what to do,” he said.

According to Rith, through this receipt, some people get large plots of land between 1ha and 2ha while others get smaller plots.

Provincial governor Kong Sophorn told The Post on July 13 that some people had misunderstood the purpose of the receipts and sold it. Authorities are investigating the case and will arrest the perpetrators.

Sophorn confirmed that the farm land belongs to the state and was taken back for development, not to serve the private sector. That is why the inter-ministerial government is trying to find the appropriate policy for the people.

“Once they received the receipts, they can look to [inter-ministerial] officials on how to deal with it. We cannot do what people want immediately. However, the inter-ministerial officials will solve the problem soon,” he added.

On August 13 last year, the Council of Ministers allocated 2.8 million square metres of land located in five villages – Koul, Thlong, Ang Taset, Prey Toteung and Kraing Krouch – in the commune to the Ministry of National Defense.

In early June, there was a protest between people who claimed ownership of the land and soldiers protecting it, leading to gunfire that injured one man.

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