The Siem Reap Provincial Administration has called on six town and district authorities to re-evaluate more than 10,000ha of land ceded to people who have lived off it for 10 years or more, saying the number of residents seemed disproportionate to the allocation.

The call came at a July 21 meeting held to review data on plots on which people have lived since 2012 or earlier in Zone 3 of the Tonle Sap Lake area in the province.

Chaired by provincial governor Tea Seiha, the meeting was attended by officials from the Tonle Sap Authority, town and district administration chiefs, heads of relevant departments, representatives of the armed forces and residents.

Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 27 ordered that relevant authorities study land in Zone 2 and 3 of the lake area for allocation.

The provincial administration then set up a team for inspections and measuring, collecting data on plots where people had lived before 2012 in Zone 3 across the six towns and districts.

Citing a preliminary report, provincial administration spokesman Ly Samrith said on July 25 that allocated and yet-to-be allocated land for people who had been living there for a decade or more amounted to more than 10,000ha.

Samrith said the number of people seemed disproportionate to the amount of land, which is why the administration instructed relevant authorities to carry out a further study to avoid irregularities.

“Certain areas are inconclusive. We have discussed this with local officials to re-prepare the provincial-level technical teams.

“The report we received still contains unclear points as to whether the land was occupied before or after 2012. We checked that the number of families is not high, but the number of plots is, so it is not clear,” he said.

Samrith said the administration had allowed the people to continue living off the land for the present, lest their livelihoods be affected.

“The provincial governor allowed more than 1,000 families to begin growing rice during this rainy season on the land that was granted in 2012.

“This means that they are allowed to grow crops on the land for the present – it does not mean other people are allowed to occupy it,” he said.

A sub-decree dated August 29, 2011, determined the establishment of the Zone 3 area of flooded forest land around the lake in the six towns and districts covering 28 communes, equal to 86 villages. Zone 3 covers more than 126,898ha.

Citing the same report, Siem Reap town governor Nuon Putheara said that some 1,997ha had been allocated to people in Zone 3 before 2012.

The town administration would study the figures and measure the land again to ascertain an accurate number of people, he added, while officials continue to measure land in other areas.

“In Siem Reap town, 1,997ha had been allocated to people in 2011. So we have already measured it ... and after additional instruction, we will measure it again,” Putheara said.

Rights group ADHOC senior investigator Soeng Sen Karuna said the process of verification was a positive development, and he expected the relevant authorities to expedite the work to allow people to be able to grow crops on the land.

“It is good that the instruction to study and verify the data in detail has been given because we see that while land has been allocated to the people, there are always concerns regarding corruption. We support this development so those who need the land and are entitled to it will benefit,” he said.

Samrith said the inspection process and the assessment of data could be completed by the end of July.