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Ambiguous airport plans leave residents in the lurch

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Residents around the airport area are no strangers to controversy; an SOS sign is painted on a roof to catch President Obama’s eye from Air Force One back in 2013. Hong Menea

Ambiguous airport plans leave residents in the lurch

In light of recent reports on the government planning to expand the Phnom Penh International Airport (PPIA), and then scrapping the idea in favour of building an entirely new international airport elsewhere in the city’s outskirts, certain ripples have been making their way through the property market.

According to industry experts, rumours of enlarging the airport have been circulating among the residents living in proximity to the PPIA for a number of years now.

However, with no concrete plans made, there has not been any record of land sale transactions around the airport area in recent times.

“You may say that land directly around the PPIA is reserved for the airport enlargement. If so, that land is not allowed for large constructions [of buildings], but residents can still sell or buy, depending on the willingness of the buyer and seller,” said Kim Heang, president of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA).

Nevertheless, it was previously reported that people living around the area do not possess land titles, while Phuong Sopheap, a representative of the land disputants in the Thmor Kol community – residents within the closest vicinity of the PPIA – suggested the government offer land titles or compensate them for deprivation of opportunities caused by the freezing of any land sales for the past four years.

Heang, however, said more people around the area have been showing signs of wanting to sell their land recently, especially after the revived rumours of the airport enlargement.

Asked if the residents living around the airport have land titles, Heang said, “No, they do not because the land belongs to the government and the government will use it for the airport’s enlargement in the future”, implying that the giving of land titles to the people is close to impossible.

Van Chanthorn, CEO of Towncity Real Estate, while unaware of any recent land sale transactions around the airport area, said that the immediate land in proximity to the airport belongs to the government whereas land further out is privately owned.

Even so, although all of the area’s residents are not in possession of a hard land title, the ones further out “have soft titles, which are recognised by the local authorities in the case of buying and selling land,” said Heang.

CVEA projects the land prices around the airport area to be an estimated range of between $150 and $450 per square metre, depending on its real location, real land plot size, as well as its land layout.

Cambodia Airports did not address specific questions asked by Post Property, maintaining reticence and making room for further speculations among the Thmor Kol community and the property market.

“At today’s location and within the current airport boundaries, there is room for further expansion. Overall, to address any forms of airport facilities development, we are in constant - and constructive - talks with Cambodian authorities,” Norinda Khek, spokesperson for Cambodia Airports, said.

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