The Kampong Thom Provincial Administration has demarcated the boundaries of Zones II around the Tonle Sap Lake within the province and parcelled out 17,339ha of land to 10,803 households.

The administration also reassigned portions of the Zone III restricted area to Zone II and parcelled out 34,159ha to 8,661 households.

The work was implemented on government directives related to land policy for people who relied on the areas around the lake for their livelihoods. The orders were issued on November 28, 2021 and May 27, 2022.

Kampong Thom governor Nguon Ratanak explained the policy and its outcomes at a February 14 press conference held to summarise the administration’s achievements over the past five years.

He said the new land policy gave more rights to the people living there because in the past Zone II was demarcated as Zone I and the people only had the right to live off the land there, but now they have the right to own the land.

“The people there are very happy with this policy because the policy provides them with reassurances that they have permission to occupy the land. In the past, they had challenges with the law because they had cleared the land to plant crops when the laws didn’t permit that,” he said.

He continued that the provincial administration had demarcated the restricted Zone III as Zone II and parcelled out 34,159ha to 8,661 families.

He emphasised that on the orders of the national government, the province’s commune and village authorities around the Tonle Sap Lake had already parcelled out the plots, except for two communes – Peam Bang of Stoung district and Phat Sanday of Kampong Svay district.

He added that these two communes have appropriate administration areas and the people have lived there for over a hundred of years. The two communes have pagodas, schools, hospitals and health centres. However, the provincial administration had inspected the two communes to conduct a feasibility study to parcel out plots for natural resource conservation.

Ratanak stated that in addition to those orders, the provincial administration had received another order on July 3, 2020 to re-examine the situation related to environmental protection for people living in areas of forest cover since 2002.

He continued that on orders issued in 2012, the government had begun providing ownership deeds to those people, but the issuance of the deeds was not completed because a large number of the people lived on the land in that area, so the work continued to be implemented in Phase II.

“This Phase II is line with the order given on July 3. The provincial administration prepared a document to request from the government the reassignment of 161,439 ha of land with forest cover for 46,533 families. Environmentally protected areas total 62,883ha with 15,729 families,” he said.

The governor also said that the administration had registered 81,000 land plots and parcelled out 65,000 plots to people.

“At this time, we are continuing to work on the remaining areas to push for land registration of up to seven million plots at end of this year,” he added.

Nhim Sarath, coordinator for rights group ADHOC in Kampong Thom province, said the problem of land disputes in the province over the last several years seemed quiet, with few cases occurring, especial after January of this year.

As to the parcelling out of land in Zone III, he said his organisation will continue to monitor the situation to see if any irregularities occur.