Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Village by village, land claims legitimized



Village by village, land claims legitimized

Village by village, land claims legitimized

14-Land-Use.jpg
14-Land-Use.jpg

Women wait with their family documents while LMAP officials survey their land in Sambo commune,

Kampong Cham province.

BOU SAROEUN/ WORLD BANK

Land ownership rights represent one of the most critical problems facing communities in Cambodia, in no small part because of the short tenure of formal land ownership in the country’s turbulent modern history.

Private property was abolished by the Khmer Rouge in 1975 and was not reinstated until 1989. Even then, many people were not formally awarded land and the vast majority of them did note receive certificates.

The 2001 Land Law was a milestone for Cambodia’s property sector, giving landless Cambodians the right to claim land through social concessions. Those living on land without a title could apply for ownership if they possessed the plot for five years – so long as they were not occupying land that was state-owned and once any third-party claims were resolved.

The law also addressed concerns held by civil society groups, such as permitting communal land titles and offering land concessions to the poor.

A 2002 sub-decree heralded a nationwide land registration system – the Land Management and Administration Program (LMAP) – to issue land titles and register them in a central database.

The program brought land titles under a single authority, replacing a system in which ownership was sanctioned by various overlapping authorities, most often the local Sangkat chief or another municipal official.

The sub-decree also established the Cadastral Commission – a government body to resolve land conflicts before they reached court.

Before the 2001 Land Law, 600,000 land titles nationwide were recognized, according to the Ministry of Land Management.

Under the new system, the ministry, working commune-by-commune at a rate of over 20,000 per month, has issued some 800,000 land titles. Technical and financial support is being provided by the Finish, German and Canadian governments, as well as the World Bank.

Registration of the entire country is expected to take another ten years, according to Peter Jipp, the World Bank’s head officer working with the LMAP.

The program’s registration process is currently active in 11 provinces – Phnom Penh, Kandal, Kampot, Kampong Speu, Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham, Takeo, Prey Veng, Kampong Thom and Sihanoukville – and is about to begin operations in Pursat, Kampong Chhnang and Banteay Meanchey. 

Village by village, LMAP teams survey local residents and map out ownership and property boundaries. Once a claim is registered, there is a public notification period of 30 days, during which the claim can be contested.

Mathew Rendall, a lawyer with Phnom Penh-based Sciaroni & Associates, said the 2001 Land Law, which established a “title by registration” system that vests authority over land ownership with the government, is in theory the most efficient system available and the one used by most of the world.

“The main pitfall of the title-by-registration system is possibility of fraud by the state registry,” Rendall said.

The other system, deed registration, used most notably by the United States and Japan, requires proof of ownership through an unbroken chain of title going back to the original owner, and is backed by insurance companies.

While the organizational framework of property titling is improving in Cambodia, land ownership can still be a tricky enterprise, according to Rendall.

“We’ve seen situations where people left their land and someone else would set up a wall around it. This is a legitimate fear,” he said.

“In the past there have been multiple offices dealing with land registry. Due diligence here still isn’t a science. The problem comes about when someone is relying on the old (pre-2001) system.” 

Rendall said the national registry is essential for not only Cambodians but foreign investors as well.

“International companies are now buying land for 20, 30, 40 million dollars. In a country where the courts are still weak, they are not going to give the assurance that foreign investors need,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration