Arbitration & ADR

Ministry issues Fresh Land Dispute Directive

Date: 18 January 2019; Type: Legal News; Source: Phnom Penh Post

Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea Sophara on Wednesday issued a directive to improve the ability of provincial governors to effectively manage and protect state land from land disputes.

A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday signed by Sophara said: “In order to effectively manage state land, the ministry has asked all city and provincial governors to work with the authority to help manage state land."

“[All provincial governors] must provide all data relating to state land under their authority. The data will be used to make a map and help set the boundaries of state land in order to protect all state land for the benefit of all.”

The statement further said that provincial governors should help register state property to prevent intrusion and land grabbing, as well as stop issuing titles on land belonging to the government. He said only the central government can issue ownership titles.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang told The Post that he supports the ministry‘s plan to protect state land from opportunists trying to seize areas for personal property.

He said an increasing population had caused more people to compete for land, and this meant that proper land management was an important issue.

“We must protect the land because in the future, Cambodians will need it. The government can issue economic land concessions and social land concessions to local communities, but if it is given to a company or individual, we will lose all the land. The government’s actions to prevent this are very important,” he said.

Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun told The Post that his provincial authority welcomed the policy and was committed to working with the ministry over the issue.

“With or without the order, the Kampong Chhnang provincial authority would follow this policy of protecting state land. All relevant authorities must defend state land,” he stressed.

Soeung Sen Karuna, an investigating officer and spokesperson for rights group Adhoc, said the ministry had enacted this new policy due to a large number of land disputes.

“I think land management at the provincial level is not good enough. The ministry reminded them because lately there have been land disputes erupting everywhere."

“The authority should involve people in the issue of land disputes. The people will help protect the land if they understand the consequences of land disputes,” he said.

According to a report issued by the ministry on December 24 last year, the cadastral committee received a total of 513 land dispute complaints from 1,447 families over a land area totalling 22,894ha last year. Of those, the ministry solved 263 cases and refused to investigate 140 which were not under their authority, while another 38 complaints were withdrawn.

This week alone, the government has acted to stamp out the illegal actions of those who attempted to grab state land.

For instance, the Phnom Penh municipal authority issued a notice on Monday ordering the owners of fish farms in the Boeung Samrong lake to vacate within 10 days from the date of the notice.

In another case, the Preah Sihanouk authorities are investigating villagers’ claim to land at Group 18 in Commune 1’s Village 1 despite a 1997 royal decree determining that it belongs to the protected Kbal Chhay freshwater basin.

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