Prime Minister Hun Sen has called for a continuation of the policy of allocating social land concessions to the poor, urging the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to identify those in genuine poverty before proceeding.

Speaking at the close of the ministry’s meeting outlining the results of 2022 and the direction for 2023 on December 27, Hun Sen emphasised that the provision of social land concessions must be made through the identification of the genuine poor.

“[We] must continue to implement the policy of providing social land concessions to people who do not own any, identifying those in need so they can have land to build on and make a living from,” he said.

Hun Sen also mentioned accelerating the building of homes for families of soldiers stationed along the border and the construction of housing for veterans.

According to a ministry report, as of the end of November 2022, the land management ministry had allocated 17,993 cards for social land concessions, while 2,178 had been registered for 182 target land concession locations set over 942,942ha.

The ministry also registered 38 areas of indigenous community land, equivalent to 981 plots over 39,342ha, for 3,717 households. Separately, the ministry registered land for 1,936 pagodas, equal to 2,404 cards.

Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group ADHOC, welcomed the intentions of the government in granting social land concessions to the genuine poor in need of farmland to improve their livelihoods.

But he suggested that the government take care before granting land concessions to avoid abuse of the system by the rich and powerful.

“If done incorrectly, the allocating of social land concession can benefit rich, powerful and influential people. We have seen that some owners of land allocations have been authorities at the provincial or national level,” he said.

“Cambodia is an agricultural country, but many people still lack land and are forced to migrate, while a lot of land, including economic land concessions, is in the hands of the rich and powerful. This is why we remain concerned over a continued loss of land.”

On November 28, 2021, a scandal blew up over the occupation of land in the Tonle Sap lake area by the powerful, with the prime minister accusing the former governor of Kampong Chhnang province of occupying a large tract of flooded forest.

Hun Sen said Chhour Chandoeun had encroached on more than 2,000ha of flooded forest land in the Tonle Sap Lake area of the province, and demanded that all officials return improperly occupied land to the state.