AROUND 195 Phnom Penh families have accused an Environment Ministry official of selling off 403 hectares of land in Pursat province’s Veal Veng district that was included in a social land concession awarded to them by the government.
Math Osman, a representative of the families, which live along the Tonle Sap river in Russey Keo district, said their request for a social land concession in Veal Veng – filed back in 1999 – had been approved last year.
Following the approval, however, the official, Keo Huo, denied the villagers access to the land and began selling it off to third parties for profit, Math Osman said.
“He has been selling it to other people for about US$700 to $1,500 per hectare,” Math Osman said.
On Monday, the Russey Keo families filed a complaint to the Veal Veng district office, Math Osman said.
He added that only around 20 of the families had received the 25-by-100-metre plots of land they were promised, and that as many as 25 families
that were not in the group that was awarded the concession had purchased 1-hectare plots from Keo Huo.
Another villager, who identified himself only as Sras, said that the families that were awarded the concession had been told they could purchase the 25-by-100-metre plots of land for $300.
“My family doesn’t have enough money, so we are still living on a boat,” he said.
When contacted Tuesday, Keo Huo denied that he was involved in any attempt to take the families’ land.
“I did not cheat those 195 families. We have already provided every family with a 1-hectare plot of land,” he said. “Some families who have not
been given land have laid accusations against me, but they are bad people.”
Veal Veng district governor Chhe Chhiv said he had not seen the complaint, but added that he doubted Keo Huo was in the wrong.
“No authorities have sold that land. About 45 families have recently come to live in the area, but most of the new villagers have not come yet,” he said.