A group of families have demanded Kampong Speu provincial authorities expedite the distribution of 54ha of land in Daun Ath village in the province’s Samrong district’s Skuh commune after they claimed rich and powerful individuals conspired with commune authorities to change ownership by altering the land title.

Chea Savoeun, a representative of 137 families in the village, said on August 16 that Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction allowed the provincial governor to allocate the land to villagers in February. However, there has yet been no land distribution.

Savoeun has therefore requested provincial authorities to expedite the settlement of land ownership.

He accused village and commune authorities of conspiring to sell the land to a powerful official at the land management ministry named Pak Chanpal with the involvement of another powerful person in the judiciary to alter the land title and take the people’s land.

Pak Chanphal, Deputy Director General of the General Department of Construction of the Ministry of Land Management, said on August 16 that he had bought the land from a private company in 2008.

He also had the land title as well as planted crops on the land without anyone objecting. It was later when people who did not understand the situation came and protested, which has led to social problems.

“Unsettling the social environment causes chaos. The second reason is to slander us. The third is to envy us. In the end they are ambitious and want to deceive the government and confuse people,” he said.

Savoeun stated that on August 15, he blocked the road with stones and demanded Chanphal to resolve this problem.

“He [Chanphal] asked me about blocking the road and what I wanted to do. I told him that I only wanted a solution to the land dispute. He demanded that I open the road, but I refused. He threatened to take me to jail,” Savoeun said.

Vei Samnang, governor of Kampong Speu province, said on August 16 that the land dispute in the village was a complicated issue.

He said the ministry has actually sent a letter to the provincial board of governors for them to allocate the land to the people. The matter is still under procedure.

However, the provincial governor claimed that he was not ignoring the dispute, and was looking for a way to quickly resolve the problem.

“This is a land dispute, so it’s not easy to solve. We cannot do anything that breaks the rules. The villagers have requested to expedite the process, but we do not know how to do it quickly. If it was easy, the problem would already be solved,” he said.

The provincial governor said some land disputes were successfully resolved quickly, but others were not so easy to resolve as there were often many issues to consider.

Commune chief Ket Sokhom said on August 16 that commune authorities had not sold the villagers’ land as villagers had already sold it in 2010.

“People sold a piece here and a piece there. When a buyer claimed a plot of land in 2015, nobody objected,” he said.

The commune chief confirmed that it was only in 2019 that people started to protest when a rich a tycoon developed land in a nearby area.

“Some people who sold their land protested too. This forest land was not valuable until the tycoon started to develop nearby land, so the people started making a problem,” he said.