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SSCA committee to address Preah Sihanouk airport land dispute

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State Secretariat of Civil Aviation president Mao Havannall says the airport development serves to meet the needs of increasing air traffic and to welcome delegations for the 2022 Asean summit. Heng Chivoan

SSCA committee to address Preah Sihanouk airport land dispute

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) on Monday said a special committee set up to address the impact of a land development project at Preah Sihanouk province’s airport had laid out a mechanism to solve land disputes for the 62 families living in its vicinity.

SSCA spokesperson Chea Aun said the committee would strike a compromise by year’s end.

“We are pushing for a solution for the residents so that the airport development can resume. If there’s no compromise, we can’t expand the development,” he said.

Aun said the 62 families had settled at the airport despite the authorities’ prohibition. He said they had secretly built more and more houses in the area although they were banned from doing so.

“In other countries, no one can settle at airports. But here, as we can see our Phnom Penh International Airport is surrounded by houses. It makes international tourists worry about their safety when landing in Cambodia. It’s not a good image for our nation,” he said.

During a meeting led by SSCA president Mao Havannall last week, Aun said the committee laid out a four-point plan to speed up the process for a solution.

Havannall, who also chairs the committee, said the 62 families would have four options. First, they can receive financial compensation in return for moving out. Second, they can swap the land with that in another area.

Third, they can receive an alternative plot of land plus an unspecified amount of money. And fourth, they can choose to settle the case through the judicial system should they reject the three options.

He said the province’s airport had been developed in stages, with its runway broadened and passenger terminal expanded. The development serves to meet the needs of increasing air traffic and to welcome delegations for the 2022 Asean summit.

“We are doing this for the good of our nation,” he said.

The committee’s formation followed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recommendations on November 26 last year, when he asked the French-run Cambodia Airports to develop the airport to international standards.

Hun Sen instructed the committee to cooperate with local authorities to solve land disputes with the residents.

Sok Sokhom, the director of NGO Cambodian National Research Organisation (CNRO) who previously took part in the solution-finding process, said the 62 families had settled at the airport since the Khmer Rouge era.

“SSCA’s working group must prepare proper compensation for the affected families so that they can build new houses in line with the government’s policy,” he said.

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