Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the authorities to accelerate the registration of land titles, saying that it is necessary to avoid further disputes. He called on all of the parties involved to seek solutions outside the court system, and to avoid unnecessary arrests.

While presiding over the annual meeting of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on December 27, the premier said there are few pieces of land which still require registration and that the work should have been completed by 2023.

“This is an issue that is very near to the hearts of our people. There is safety in land ownership and completing the registrations will prevent further conflicts.

“I will not start another campaign for this like I had to in 2012, but I urge the officials who are responsible for this work – like provincial governors – to look into these delays and find solutions,” he said.

He added that although a lot of land had been registered, it appeared that the work had slowed down. “The authorities must attach priority to this work, and consider it an essential service.” he said.

According to an official report, the land management ministry has issued at least 315,441 land titles in the first 11 months of this year – an increase of nearly 5 per cent over last year.

As of November this year, it had issued 6,730,752 land titles, or about 96.2 per cent of the Kingdom’s estimated seven million plots.

Hun Sen also called for land disputes to be resolved outside of the court system wherever possible, recalling that a dispute in Battambang province’s Samlot district had been instrumental in the rise of the Khmer Rouge.

“Conflicts should be solved without the intervention of the judicial system, because there can only be one winner and one loser in a court ruling. This only ever ends with one aggrieved party claiming that the court’s ruling was not just. People should attempt to negotiate a win-win solution,” he said.

He told the authorities – especially law enforcement agencies – that they should not arrest people who become embroiled in land disputes. Doing so, he said, damages the image of Cambodia.

“If you keep arresting people, the one who suffers the most is me, the prime minister. I am often accused of ordering the arrest of people when actually it is the courts that make the decisions,” he added.

He said people often petition the government for help as they believe that it is responsible for the decisions of all state institutions. They need to understand that the judiciary is independent and has its own power.

He also urged stricter enforcement of construction laws to ensure that new work is carried out to the highest possible standards. Historic buildings and sites must all be registered, he added.

To help people with limited budgets, he urged the construction of low-price housing for civil servants, and instructed officials to continue to provide land to veterans. He suggested that land near the borders should be given to some members of the armed forces, as well as veterans, as they would be well placed to defend the Kingdom’s territory.

In addition, he called for the acceleration of land sales as it is a “valuable contributor” to the government’s tax revenue.

He set the end of May 2023 as the deadline for the rezoning of land around the Tonle Sap Lake. The authorities must make decisions as to which land will be provided to local residents and which parts will become protected areas.