Pursat Provincial Administration officials on July 15-17 held internal meetings with local authorities in Veal Veng district on coordinating a response to end a long-running land dispute between about 30 families in Thmor Da commune with MDS, a private company which is in the process of developing a special economic zone (SEZ) next to the Cambodian-Thai border.

Cheng Lay, the acting governor of Pursat province who chaired the meeting, told The Post that the main reason for the land disputes in the area – which have lasted for more than 10 years now – was due to a lack of participation from all parties involved.

He said the compensation offered to the people who would be displaced did not immediately respond to their specific needs and this was a problem caused by the development company owners who remain reluctant to invest in the area as an SEZ despite having been granted an economic land concession (ELC).

“Currently, we have found that most people there want to make a deal and resolve this land dispute, with the families receiving half a hectare of residential land and 1.5ha of arable land, which the provincial authorities have promised to provide them in the past,” he said.

According to the acting governor, the company has now agreed to provide 5.5ha of land concessions as residential land to 11 families, while provincial authorities are preparing a request to Prime Minister Hun Sen to subdivide a forested area of 300ha of state land and reclassify it as a state social land concession (SLC) to provide to the impacted people and to develop infrastructure on for the public interest.

He added that at present, the development of an SEZ in Veal Veng district’s Thmor Da commune near the Cambodian-Thai border, which MDS is operating, is about 90 per cent complete.

Both the authorities and the local people expect that when the project is completed, it will bring many jobs to the area and enable them to create other businesses to increase their families’ income.

“Resolution of land disputes cannot be done quickly without the consent of all parties involved in the conflict, but we will try our best to resolve this land dispute this year or by early next year,” Lay added.

Regarding this commitment, Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara announced on November 8 last year that his ministry is committed to completing the issuance of land titles 100 per cent nationwide with seven million titles granted by 2023. He also pledged to continue to effectively resolve and prevent land disputes.

“The introduction of the land title deed plan is to ensure the security of land tenure, avoid disputes, raise the economic value of land and create capital for development. This land arrangement will also give landowners more confidence in the use of land for development than they had before,” he stated.

The issuance of seven million land titles nationwide, which grants ownership of land that had previously had no documented owner to public or private entities, is expected to be complete by 2023.

To date, over 6.5 million land titles or 93.1 per cent of the seven million have been issued to residents, private companies and some state institutions, according to an April, 2022 report from the land management ministry.

“From the date of implementation of the land title issuance programme from 2003 to April, 2022, the ministry has issued 6,513,964 land titles, equivalent to 93.1 per cent of the initial estimate of seven million titles. The land registration is systematic, creating 5,889,565 titles with 5,427,946 titles distributed. A total of 17,993 [SLC] titles and 624,399 parcels of land were registered,” the report states.

Of the 624,399 registered parcels of land, 189 locations are state-owned and are equivalent in size to 2,104 titles, with a total land area of 907,493ha, of which 177 locations are ELC, equivalent to 2,027 titles with a total area of 696,142ha.

There are also 12 Reforestation Protected Areas, equivalent to 77 titles with a total area of 211,351ha, of which there are six locations in the possession of the Ministry of Environment, equal to 61 titles with a total area of 191,445ha. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries owns six locations, equal to 16 titles with a total area of 19,906ha.

There are 621,439 private land titles owned by private individuals and 33 indigenous communities, equalling 856 titles or 33,899ha for 3,235 households.

Separately, the registration of land used by monks was also made on behalf of 1,936 pagodas, which is equivalent to 2,404 titles, with systematic land registration at 2,085 titles along with 319 other separate titles.

The land management ministry registered 452,952 cases of transfer of rights and 247,752 cases of registrations of pledged titles or mortgages. There were 5,827 cases of registration of permanent leaseholder rights equal to 82,094 ha, four registered ELC with 414 titles equal to 246,943ha, and 49,082 registered separate titles from 225 residential gated communities known locally as “borey”.

As for the registration of co-ownership buildings, the ministry registered a total of 45,204 private co-ownership buildings – 38,705 in Phnom Penh, 6,486 in Sihanoukville and 13 in Siem Reap. Registered transfers of privately co-owned buildings was at 11,670 titles with 2,817 Khmer owners and 8,443 foreign owners and 410 titles for company owners.

The same report also highlighted the results of land dispute resolution efforts for the mechanism of the district Cadastral Commission, the mechanism of the land management ministry and that of the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution.

“From the date of implementation until April 2022, the above three land dispute resolution mechanisms have received a total of 14,223 complaints, with 10,824 resolved and 3,399 unsettled or outstanding,” according to the same report.