A prominent member of the Supreme Consultation Forum on Tuesday said he has so far this month investigated 14 out of 200 cases of land disputes in Preah Sihanouk province.
The Supreme Consultation Forum was established after the July 2018 national election to offer recommendations to the government on various social issues.
Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung, who is also president of the Khmer Rise Party (KRP), told The Post on Tuesday that he will call a meeting to prepare a report to be forwarded to Prime Minister Hun Sen for further action.
“To solve these land disputes, we will submit a report to the prime minister, and we will continue to monitor the issue and seek a solution,” he said.
Vathana Sabung said most disputes involved villagers who have not officially registered their land and armed military officers who he said sought to plant land boundaries on plots belonging to villagers.
“People who filed complaints are separate individuals. They don’t know each other. The villagers said there were soldiers involved when [intruders] came at night time to put up boundaries on the land."
“When the villagers went to their land the next morning, the markers were already planted,” he said.
Vathana Sabung continued that his investigation was based on complaints from local villagers in the province. He said in some of the 14 cases, one plaintiff represented many families.
He said members of the forum will conduct background checks and verify all related legal documents before submitting a comprehensive report to the prime minister.
“After studying the cases, members of the Supreme Consultation Forum will file a report to Prime Minister Hun Sen in accordance with procedures for a decision,” he said.
Preah Sihanouk provincial administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Tuesday that he echoed Vathana Sabung’s claims that most cases of land disputes in the province involved unregistered and state-owned land.
“When conducting field visits, members of the Supreme Consultation Forum sometimes did not notify provincial authorities. They went straight to the villagers involved in land disputes. On our part, we will continue to address the issues according to the law,” he said.
Phearum pointed out that the provincial authority reserved the right to protect state land from encroachment and private land belonging to rightful owners from being grabbed.