A GROUP of 14 families in Meanchey district’s Prek Pra commune have petitioned Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in an ongoing land dispute with Sok Kong, president of the Sokimex Company.
A government directive signed on August 6 by Council of Ministers secretary of state Seng Lim Nov, a copy of which was obtained yesterday, states that Sokimex owns 21.83 hectares of disputed land in Prek Pra commune’s O’Andong village.
According to the document, Sok Kong bought more than 200 hectares of land, including the disputed area, for US$6.54 million in 2004.
The directive states that any documents that identify other parties as owners of land that “overlapped” with the area owned by Sok Kong would be considered invalid if signed later than 1992.
A total of 14 families claim to possess legal documents dating back to 1999 – and authorised by a commune official – that say they are the rightful owners of the Prek Pra commune land.
Representatives of the 14 families – who one resident said included the wife of Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana and relatives of Hun Sen – thumb-printed a letter dated September 1 and addressed to the premier. The letter says that the land owned by Sok Kong is actually located in Nirodh commune, which borders Prek Pra commune, and is known as the Boeung Chhuok development area.
Included as an appendix to the letter is a document signed by Hun Sen in 2005 that gives Sok Kong permission to develop 200 hectares of land in Nirodh commune but makes no mention of land inside Prek Pra.
The September 1 letter clarifies that the 14 families are only opposed to the developments in Prek Pra.
“We fully support Samdech [Hun Sen’s] allowing Sok Kong to develop the Boeung Chhouk area as part of a contribution to economics, environment and society,” the letter says.
“But what is wrong is that the development affects our residents’ land.”
One resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fears for her safety, said the 14 families had not yet been given eviction notices, but that they were concerned that the company could order them to move “any day”.
“We hope that our letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen is heard, because in 2006 he ordered Sok Kong not to interfere with the residents’ land,” she said, referring to a newspaper article, also included as an appendix, that says that the premier instructed Sok Kong not to develop land belonging to the 14 families.
Sok Kong and Sokimex director Heu Heng could not be reached for comment yesterday, nor could Prek Pra commune chief Chuop Sitha, whose signature appears on the letter in support of the 14 families.
Bi Nay, district deputy governor, said yesterday that she was not aware that Sok Kong’s development plans would affect the 14 families.
“I just know that Sok Kong wants to create a satellite city following the master plan of the municipality,” she said. “What I know is that he bought the land from another [person]. I do not know if his land will affect other people’s land.”