Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sihanoukville land dispute has long trail of shady dealings

Sihanoukville land dispute has long trail of shady dealings

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People from Sihanoukville protest land issues in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Sihanoukville land dispute has long trail of shady dealings

A group of 120 families in Preah Sihanouk province’s Kampong Seila district have sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen seeking his intervention in their land dispute.

The families are requesting land titles so they can use the land for their livelihoods, said Sok Nil, a representative for the families.

Nil said the residents have lived on the land in Kampong Seila commune’s Veal village since 1994.

In 2004, a US company came to buy the land from them to plant acacia trees. Nil said each hectare sold for $50.

The company then promised that if the land was not developed within five years it would be handed back to the residents.

When a group of youth volunteers measured the land to make land titles in 2012, a company representative told the residents it was too late for the company to develop the area. He said the company had handed it back to them through village and commune authorities who are the ones to distribute it.

In June 2012, Hun Sen launched a land-titling scheme to be implemented by youth volunteers across the country. Its mandate was to cover areas where families live without proper legal documentation on state land.

Nil said when the volunteers measured the land in 2012, they measured only land residents did not sell to the company. They did not measure the land handed back to the residents by the firm.

“When the land measurement outcome was announced by the youth volunteers, the residents saw that the land the company bought and handed back was vacant. So we have lived and relied on it for our livelihoods ever since,” he said.

Nil said a court in 2016 issued a summons claiming deliberate damage with aggravation and illegal occupation of the property. It was not known who filed the complaint.

“We have appeared in court on several occasions according to the summons. But a plaintiff was not found and the court didn’t reveal his or her name.

“Having been informed, the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration let residents submit application forms for land registration under the management of the agriculture ministry. But commune and district authorities didn’t accept them. They said the land had an owner already,” Nil said.

Veal village chief Chey Sam told The Post on Monday that in 2012 land titles were already issued to residents. But in 2015, because the land was said to have been sold to the company and not developed, they lived on the land again.

Sam said only about 40 families live on the land when the court complaint was filed.

“Some of them made hard land tittles and sold plots. Then they grabbed land in other places nearby that had been sold from one owner to another in a anarchic way,” he said.

Kampong Seila commune chief Phong Kea said there was a trader going to buy land in the area. He said the company did not buy the land directly. Instead, the trader bought the land and sold it to the firm.

“There was a land buying spree in Veal village in 2005, before I became commune chief. The buyer was known as Samnang. He bought the land to sell to the company. But the company didn’t take the land from him. So he kept the land as his own and made land title,” he said.

Kea said specialists have gone there to measure land for distribution to the roughly 100 families in the area with proper documents. But in 2019-2020, local residents and outsiders grabbed land belonging to others.

“Certain residents in the village grabbed the land of others. Some from outside kept grabbing land belonging to others. Some know how to secretly own land and they sold it among themselves without even paperwork,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro