Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to take the lead and assist Tonle Sap Lake area authorities in rezoning the land that people have lived upon for many years. Once final decisions have been made, land titles must be registered by the end of May next year, he added.

The premier gave the instruction while addressing the closing ceremony of the ministry’s annual meeting on its work results this year and 2023 action plan.

The area around the Tonle Sap Lake is divided into three major zones. Zone 1 is residential land, which people may hold title to, and buy and sell. Zone 2 may be farmed or occupied by the families who have dwelt there for many years but ownership cannot be registered and the land cannot be sold. Zone 3 is protected flooded forest area and cannot be encroached upon.

Last May, the prime minister issued a proclamation, ordering that some 6,385ha of Zone 3 land be rezoned as Zone 2 so the nearly 10,000 households living there would be able to depend on it to provide for their livelihoods in the future. At the same time, he issued Sub-Decree No 105 ordering local authorities to find solutions to the problems faced by their constituents.

Through this sub-decree, thousands of households in Stung Sen, Baray, Kampong Svay, Santuk, Stoung and Taing Kork districts of Kampong Thom province have requested that the provincial administration rezone more of the land that they have depended on for generations, so their futures are stable.

“The authorities of the provinces adjacent to the Tonle Sap Lake must update the boundaries of each of the zones around the lake to provide these families with peace of mind. This work must be completed by the end of next May,” Hun Sen told the assembled land management ministry officials at the December 27 ceremony.

“For the sake of the people and the preservation of the lake, it is necessary to deal with this in a realistic way. Some of those families have lived on the land since before I was born,” he added.

An inter-ministerial committee led by land management minister Chea Sophara inspected the land in question on December 26. Following the inspection, they concurred with the people’s requests and submitted them to the premier for review and approval.

Provincial deputy governor Sok Hay told The Post that families had requested that more than 20,000ha of land be rezoned.

“The people have depended on the farmland for many years, but following strict orders to tighten the implementation of laws on the protection of land in zones 2 and 3, many of them returned the land to the government,” he said.

“Following close inspections by the inter-ministerial committee, the families’ requests have been accepted and referred to the head of government for final approval” he added.