The Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries has requested citizens claiming land in the O’Thma forestry restoration station area in Preah Sihanouk province to submit their ownership documents to the district Forestry Administration before July 15.
If citizens do not submit their documents, they forfeit their claims to the land, as the ministry said in an announcement on Friday that it is planning to develop the area.
Ownership documents will be accepted during working hours until July 15 and the administration would inspect and verify them to determine the rightful landowners, the ministry said.
“In case of failure to provide relevant documents, the ministry will not be liable for any losses. The ministry strongly believes in collaborating with all citizens who provide relevant documents in a timely, understanding and responsible manner,” it said.
The ministry’s deputy cabinet director and spokesperson Chan Heng on Monday referred questions to provincial Forestry Administration officials.
Provincial Forestry Administration chief Dy Sokhom said because the land has been owned and sold by several residents in the past, the ministry needs to review boundaries to ensure their plans to develop O’Thma does not affect the people’s livelihood.
“Upon receiving the documents of the people who occupy the land in the area, the Ministry of Agriculture and the provincial administration will set up a committee to deal with these issues.”
Rights group Adhoc provincial coordinator Cheap Sotheary said the ministry’s announcement was an expression of good-faith.
This would allow all landholders to negotiate to avoid conflicts as the authorities proceed to plan their restoration development project, she said.
“Getting the documents is also a historical study of its occupation. What is the nature of the occupation? Is it a clear document, a valid occupation or not?
“Sometimes, citizens know they have land in the area but don’t have clear documents. When there is an announcement, the relevant parties can submit their documents and the authorities can find a solution,” she said.