More than 1,200 families with long-standing land disputes of more than 20 years in Banteay Meanchey province have made lucky draws to lawful plots after Prime Minister Hun Sen allowed allocation of more than 300ha in Tuol Pongro commune’s Boeung Chungruk village of Malai district to put an end to the matter.
Hun Sen’s deputy cabinet chief Pankhem Bunthan, who led a working group to resolve the disputes, said the disputes had gone on so long because middlemen had cheated residents in the past, leading them to live on land owned by others. When the prime minister learned of the impasse, he appointed Bunthan to direct a study of the problems and find a solution.
“When we went there to survey the land, we found that the residents were living on plots legally owned by others. Some had made purchases and sales among themselves while some had illegally grabbed land to sustain their livelihoods. Generally speaking, the land was already owned,” he said.
Bunthan said having seen that local residents had suffered difficulties on account of not having properly registered residences, the prime minister had decided to allocate 300ha for them.
“Having conducted inspections, we found that some people experienced shortfalls in their livelihoods, prompting them to occupy land for their sustenance. Others have constructed small houses and requested permission to remain where they are living.
“In response, the prime minister allocated land for them. We will divide it into plots for distribution among them. They will need to relocate and return their currently inhabited lands to the rightful owners,” he said.
Bunthan explained that a lottery for the plots of land was held on February 7 and that the land to be distributed had been donated to the prime minister.
“Donors gifted the land, and it enables us to utilise it for policies benefitting the residents. Therefore, the prime minister decided to return the land to those who would come to live on it,” he said.
Bunthan said his group had taken a census which determined that there were a total of 1,213 affected families who had resided for a long time on disputed plots, and allocations to them would be assessed according to practical realities of their situations.
“We will also make further assessments pertaining to two sizes of plots to be distributed. One type measures 30m by 50m, and the other is 22m by 25m. We will distribute the two sizes of parcels according to our evaluation of which is more suitable to each family,” he said.
One of the local disputants, Kim Sopheak, expressed delight at the solution, saying he had experienced the difficulties of having been subject to eviction. He would now be able to move to a proper place with access to infrastructure.
“This success is with thanks to Prime Minister Hun Sen who sent his assistants to assess the situation. He allows the people to live comfortable lives. The place I will live will have a health centre, police post, village office, Red Cross building, pagoda, gym facility, a pond and more,” he said.