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Sihanoukville families seek governor’s intervention in land dispute

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Sihanoukville officials inspect the area of land disputes in Sihanoukville’s Commune I. Supplied

Sihanoukville families seek governor’s intervention in land dispute

At least 18 families from Village 3 in Sihanoukville’s Commune I are seeking provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun ’s intervention in a year-old dispute with a couple who they accuse of building structures on their land.

Duch Chan Samai, the villagers’ representative, told The Post on Wednesday that Loek Leakhena and her husband Kith Bun had blocked their access to the more than 1ha land with fences since late last year.

“Villagers are hopeless now. We have filed a complaint to provincial administration many times. There was also an intervention from Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana, but nothing has come of it. There is still no solution.

“We request the provincial governor to help resolve this issue because the couple ignored the authorities who attempted to stop them from building anything on the land. They have resumed the construction,” he said.

He said the couple claimed to own the land based on an ownership certificate dated December 27, 1993.

However, he said that certificate had already been abrogated by the government in an announcement issued on August 22, 1999.

Leakhena told The Post on Wednesday that she had on numerous occasions requested a meeting with the villagers at the provincial hall in a bid to end the dispute, but they never showed up.

“If they [villagers] claim the provincial administration has ceded the land to them, then they need to bring their documentation to prove it. I have occupied the land and paid property taxes every year.

“My land is more than 2ha. They said my land documentation has been revoked, but who annulled it?” she asked.

Leakhena claimed the villagers were not involved in the land dispute but were hired to protest by an unidentified individual who she claimed had grabbed over 1ha of her land.

“I have filed a complaint to both the provincial authorities and the court,” she said.

Y Thearin, the acting director of the provincial administration’s Inter-Sector Department, said he had assigned local authorities to halt construction on the disputed land pending a compromise.

“The provincial hall has been holding meetings to solve the land dispute, but we haven’t come to a decision yet. The [Sihanoukville] authorities have gone to halt the construction so you can check with them,” he said.

In a letter dated August 20 and seen by The Post on Wednesday, Thearin briefed the provincial governor about the disputed land after the government revoked all ownership of land in Stung Hav district’s Kbal Chhay area, which also covered land owned by the couple.

The letter said the government decided to distribute parts of the land to villagers after the annulment.

Thearin said the couple’s plot was part of the land to be distributed by the provincial governor.

Deputy provincial governor Sorn Kosal said he had already referred the case to the provincial authority.

“It’s out of our hands now. When Yun Min was still provincial governor, Chan Samai [the villagers’ representative] received a plot along with other needy villagers,” he said.

Sok Sokhom, the director of the Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO), said the couple had an ownership certificate, but he was uncertain where exactly the land is located following the government’s annulment.

“The 18 families are poor and the governor had distributed the land to them. The couple’s claim to the land is not valid anymore [after the abrogation],” he said.

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