Senior Minister Kun Kim, who is secretary-general of the Cambodia Veteran Association, on Wednesday called for people not to grab land from a social land concession meant for Cambodian veterans in Siem Reap province, while a civil society group said people had been living there since 1980.
Kim’s plea came on a visit to veterans, where he inspected the land in Khun Ream commune’s Kam Prom village in Banteay Srei district.
The 1,369ha plot had been reserved for veterans with a poor standard of living, Kim said, but people had grabbed some 984ha, leaving only 385ha intact.
“As a veteran, [I] appeal to the brothers and sisters who have grabbed the land illegally to stop. If you really lack land, please apply to the relevant authorities so they can assess your real standard of living in the same way they do for veterans,” he said.
Siem Reap deputy administrative director Sok Thol said on Thursday that the land had been set aside by the government as a social land concession in 2012.
“For a long time, people have cleared and grabbed land from the social land concession for farming,” he said.
Suos Narin, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the government had revoked some land despite villagers having held it for some time.
“The land dispute has been going on for a long time, and the land selected for the social concession has changed a few times already and has not been specifically demarcated yet."
“When people protest, they move the social land concession to another location. Before, it was in Varin district,” Narin said.
He asked that before selecting an area for a social land concession, the relevant authorities should first carefully study whether the land is already owned. He said doing this would avoid disputes.
“As a civil society worker, I support finding solutions to land disputes through peaceful means. I have seen documents showing that people have had ownership of the land since before 2012,” he said.
Narin said most of the people involved in the Varin district dispute have held land since 1980, while some obtained ownership documents from village and commune authorities in 2000.
“What I have noticed is that villagers are prevented from doing anything with the land, but land traders, who have many hectares of land, manage to do it", he said.