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Rare win for villagers in battle with tycoon

Rare win for villagers in battle with tycoon

In a rare siding with villagers, government officials earlier this week rejected a proposal by tycoon Kith Meng to develop the area surrounding Boeung Prek Tub lake in Preah Sihanouk town and instead vowed to issue proper land titles to residents.

Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction spokesman Benghong Socheat Kemro told the Post yesterday that Kith Meng’s proposal to develop the 82-hectare Boeung Prek Tub lake area in commune three had been rejected at an inter-ministerial meeting the day before.

“There is no approval from the state,” he said.

“The people will stay in the same place without any eviction. The state does not intend to put eviction on them.”

Benghong Socheat Kemro said the ministers had decided “not to do anything that would affect the lake” and that the next step in the process would be “the offering of land titles” to residents.

Kith Meng formally asked the government for a 99-year lease to the land last March to build an ecotourism site that would feature a resort.

After the request became public last year, villagers, fearing eviction, mounted nearly a dozen protests, including one last August in which they blocked National Road 4 leading into Sihanoukville.

Provincial director of land management So Sok said yesterday that the government had heeded the villagers’ concerns and had decided to “protect the lake” and “proceed with residents to allow them to have legal land ownership”.

Om Vanna, a resident of Boeung Prek Tub lake, said he was “happy” that he no longer had to worry about being evicted from land that he had lived on for more than 30 years.

He added that he had not yet received information about land titles from authorities, but had heard about the government’s decision.

When asked for comment yesterday, Kith Meng said he was busy in a meeting.

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