Businesses and individuals with a history of improper land dealings are to be added to a “blacklist” barring them from registering or transferring land, according to a Facebook post published by Minister of Land Management Chea Sophara on Friday.
The post promised that action will be taken against all who violate land ownership laws “regardless of how powerful they are”. Names added to the list would be passed on to the prime minister for approval, it said.
So far, just one name has been added to the list, that of Kandal businessman Lok Hour, according to Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Loth.
Hour, previously an adviser to late senate chief Chea Sim, is currently embroiled in five separate land disputes, according to Loth.
“His Excellency blacklisted him because he had a lot of land conflicts with other citizens. We collected data about his cases and found that he has five conflicts in different places,” Loth said.
The spokesman added that Sophara had established a special committee to resolve Hour’s land disputes, as well as working groups to gather evidence on the ground.
Hour’s blacklisting comes on the heels of a letter issued by Kandal governor Mao Pirun last Thursday calling on the governors of the province’s Sa’ang and Kien Svay districts to freeze land currently the subject of disputes between Hour and local residents.
Sophara declined to comment on the decision to create the blacklist, the first of its kind.
Local NGO Adhoc’s head of land rights Latt Ky welcomed the announcement.
“I think that it’s a great action to show their high commitment for taking legal action,” Ky said. “He’s committed to list down all of the land grabbers for the government to take action. To me, working for an NGO, it’s a good opportunity to know about all those guys.”
However, Ky questioned whether the list itself would have any meaningful effects unless it was made publicly accessible.
“That’s a very good tool; it should be [shared with] the public that these people are involved in land disputes in Cambodia. Just to share that information with the public . . . would be more effective than a blacklist.”
Additional reporting by Jack Davies