Ten cases of land disputes that lasted for over 15 years have been solved by the Banteay Srei district administration by understanding and peaceful mean on January 19.
Banteay Srei governor Khim Finan said on 20 January that a land dispute that had gone on for 15 years now had become an impediment to the citizens of the province on both sides of the dispute’s ability to live in safety and harmony in addition to having prevented either party from making productive use of the land.
It was also a waste of time for the authorities who had been forced to deal with the dispute instead of making progress in other areas.
“I hope that these cases will make other [people involved in] other cases of disputed land ease up a little and accept the solutions offered by the authorities.
“Disputes mostly happen on land that people have occupied for many years in the forest but some were caused by overlapping documents from village and commune [authorities],” he said.
According to Finan, in 2021 the district administration plans to launch a campaign to end these long-running land disputes and failing that they plan to forward over 100 of those cases to the relevant institutions of the national authorities. They have a backlog of cases now that goes back years, he said.
He added that the campaign was being launched now in order to open the way to implement the new system of land registration that will ensure the legality of land possession and use in the future.
He said the issue of disputed land remains a big challenge and that it is tough to get people to agree to solutions because the status of the land often affects their livelihoods. In many of these cases it has proved to be a total waste of time for the local authorities or the parties involved to attempt to settle these disputes and it would have been more efficient if they’d have just appealed to a higher authority to issue rulings years ago.
Irregular and patchy forest cover, unclear demarcation of unregistered lands, transfers of land from one person to another, overlapping documents and a huge backlog of cases are all complicating factors at this point.
It can be a challenge to find the legal documents or title histories in order to solve these cases and even if you succeed in doing so it takes up a lot of time.
Siem Reap provincial Adhoc investigator Sous Narin notes that Governor Finan is working hard at finding solutions for these land disputes despite it being a difficult and often thankless job.
“I’ve noticed though that in some of the bigger cases of land disputes between ordinary people and big companies or the wealthy and powerful people who own those companies, the governor seems hesitant to step in and referee things in the same way he has in other cases even though it certainly is within his authority to do so,” he said.