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Koh Kong land dispute complicated by irregularities

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Koh Kong deputy provincial governor Sok Sothy. Koh Kong Provincial Administration

Koh Kong land dispute complicated by irregularities

The Koh Kong Provincial Administration has instructed Botum Sakor district authorities to collect the names of the 131 families affected by Sinomexim Investment Co Ltd in Andong Teuk commune and identify those who have sold land to traders in order to compile the basic information necessary for resolving the ongoing land dispute there.

Deputy provincial governor Sok Sothy told The Post on March 10 that the government has decided to cede 598ha of land from Botum Sakor National Park to the 131 families that had filled out paperwork with the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction in 2019 because they were affected by the development project of Sinomexim, which had received an economic land concession in the area.

Sothy said that following complaints from these families, the company had ceded 598ha to the authorities to distribute to them, with each family receiving a plot of land measuring 20m by 50m for residential use.

Some families who had suffered from the impacts of the company’s development project for a longer period were given a plot of land measuring 20m by 70m next to the road and a second plot measuring 20m by 100m further away from the road.

According to Sothy, the remaining land has been reserved by the state for the construction of schools, hospitals, landfills and other public necessities.

Sothy said 70 families initially agreed to accept the decision of the local authorities but 61 other families demanded 2ha or 3ha of more land for planting crops.

Sothy added that after this offer was made, four land buyers from outside the local area came to buy land there. There were varying claims as to how much land each buyer had purchased, with estimates ranging from 15ha up to 181ha.

“The residents did not have the right to sell the land, but if they [merchants] didn’t buy it then where did they get the land from? I’ve told the authorities to study the matter and when I get the answer, we will find a solution for them.

“But I can confirm that these plots of land are no longer associated with the company, because they have already returned more than 500ha,” he said.

Moeung Khun, chief of Chi Treh village in Botum Sakor district’s Andong Teuk commune, said on March 10 that some of the land provided by the state for these 131 families had gradually been sold to outside traders. He said the authorities only want to know how many hectares each bought among the more than 500ha.

“About 90 per cent of the 131 families sold their land to traders, but we are looking for big land buyers,” he said.

According to Khun, each family initially had asked for 5ha, but could not get it because there was not enough land. They then asked for only 2ha per family, but to no avail.

Thong Chan Dara, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he will lead a team there to look into the actual location this weekend. But he said he did not expect that all of the people there would cooperate because of their prior involvement in the sale of the land to traders.

Chan Dara said the authorities could have resolved the land dispute for the 131 families by now, but changes in plans regarding the land had caused a great deal of confusion as some families who had sold their land were now demanding it back.

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