Minister of Environment Say Sam Al has vowed that all existing land disputes in Preah Sihanouk province will be resolved and no new cases would be entertained. He also threatened legal action against those who attempt to grab state land.
Sam Al said the current disputes would be resolved through land registration, negotiations and legal measures.
“Efforts must be made to complete the resolution of existing disputes,” Sam Al told the first meeting of a national and sub-national working group on Monday, that is tasked with tackling problems in the coastal province.
The minister also warned that dishonest people attempting to illegally grab state land would be stopped from damaging the peace, stability and development the province has enjoyed.
He urged all relevant parties to consider their role in maintaining the national economic growth of seven per cent per year, which created jobs for Cambodians, reduced poverty and ensured sustainable development.
Sam Al said the government’s goal was to transform Preah Sihanouk into an economic hub as per the instruction of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the long-term vision for Cambodia.
Sok Sokhom, the director of the Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO), on Tuesday said land disputes in Preah Sihanouk have grown over the years as authorities had not resolved previous disputes before new ones arose.
“Currently, land prices are increasing and new land disputes are also on the rise. The government has tasked Sam Al with leading [the national and provincial working group] in Preah Sihanouk province."
“We hope his engagement will make people accept the resolution to their dispute. We hope this commitment will be effective and these are not just empty words,” he stressed.
Sok Sokhom said the issue of land disputes was a complicated matter, but one that could be resolved smoothly with sustained effort.
“Land disputes can be resolved as long as there is participation from the national and sub-national levels, land dispute communities, civil society and all relevant parties."
“We have seen in the past [high-ranking] officials intervene but they did not pay suitable regard to the problem, so the government has changed [leadership]. I hope that by placing Sam Al in charge, it will allow citizens to hope and trust again,” Sokhom said.
At Monday’s meeting, Sam Al highlighted the working group’s priorities. It has been tasked with strengthening security and public order in Preah Sihanouk province by working with provincial authorities and security forces, and with ensuring safety for citizens, tourists and investors, he said.
“Based on pledges made by our country’s leaders in the past and their actual performance, I would rather trust Sam Al’s deeds than his words,” political analyst Lao Mong Hay said.
Preap Kol, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said that time will tell people that this pledge can be done or not.
“However, the pledge is not effective if there is no specific measure and serious practice,” he said.