A total of 106 families from Sihanoukville’s Mittapheap district on Monday requested Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities allocate them land, claiming that although they have been living there since 2012, they do not have the right to build houses, while some other people have these rights.
Lim Veasna, a representative of the protesting families from Village 1, in Sangkat 1, Group 18, said on Monday that Group 18 chief Chan Vibol had asked for a letter from National Assembly President Heng Samrin allocating the land to the villagers, but Samrin’s letter did not designate the land to the real owners.
“Vibol went to ask for a letter from Samdech Heng Samrin, and then he obtained the letter. He requested [Samrin] to distribute the land to 172 families, but the letter didn’t mention the names of the real landowners. They’re only [Vibol’s] relatives’ names."
“Samdech Heng Samrin signed the letter and sent it to the province. I would like to point out that most of the 172 families who have received the land are not the real landowners. Therefore, it is absolutely unfair,” he alleged.
Veasna claimed that following this injustice, the villagers collected thumbprints and submitted them to the provincial governor to review the land distribution which only resulted in Vibol panicking and allocating some families to receive land to build houses, but not others.
“The people requested that the National Assembly allocate them more than 9ha of land, but Vibol only allotted land to his relatives to build houses, while we, the real owners, did not receive any land, and we were barred by Vibol from entering our farmland,” he said.
Village 1 resident Dy Thon claimed she had bought a 5x10 metre plot in 2013 but was now barred by the environmental officer from accessing the plot.
“I came from Kampong Cham province’s Batheay district to Sihanoukville when I was 62 years old, and now I’m 68."
“The land I bought cost $500 and I had planned to build a small house to live in with my children, but then I was prevented from entering my land,” she said.
Sun Sophat, a community representative in Preah Sihanouk province who has been monitoring the families’ protest, explained on Monday the reason for the protest.
He said the authorities had forbidden people from building houses or undertaking any form of work on the land while the case was not yet solved.
“People are questioning why some people from that area have been allocated land, but those who have been living there for almost 10 years have not been allotted any and are not able to build houses."
“I’ve heard from the people that the authorities haven’t apportioned the land yet because they don’t know the actual size. They plan to clear the land and divide it into 5x20m plots once this has been ascertained,” Sophat said.
Provincial environment department director Samuth Sothearith confirmed on Monday that authorities had banned construction on the land pending the provincial governor’s decision.
“The Preah Sihanouk governor has not allowed any action to take place on the land, such as building houses or growing crops, but over the years they always try to build houses. The provincial administration has told them to stay calm while waiting for a solution."
“If they undertake any work on the land, it’s wrong. When we prevent them, they get angry,” Sothearith said.
Veasna said the families have written a petition to the provincial administration to seek a resolution of the dispute. He said they will go to the provincial hall to submit their petition on Tuesday.