Au­thor­i­ties to mea­sure dis­puted land

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Voun Dara

AU­THOR­I­TIES will on Mon­day in­spect and mea­sure t he Si­hanoukville land at t he cen­tre of a long-run­ning dis­pute be­tween more than 100 fam­i­lies and loca l lead­ers, Preah Si­hanouk prov in­cia l env iron­men­tal depart­ment di­rec­tor Sa­mut Sot­hearith told The Post on Sun­day.

The fam­i­lies claim the land, at Group 18 in Com­mune 1’s Vil­lage 1, was do­nated to them, de­spite a 1997 royal de­cree de­ter­min­ing that it be­longs to the pro­tected Kbal Ch­hay fresh­wa­ter basin.

The fam­i­lies’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Lim Veasna, told The Post on Sun­day that they sub­mit­ted a pe­ti­tion to the gover­nor in Novem­ber but a so­lu­tion has yet to be pro­vided.

“The vil­lagers have lived on the land since 2014. The area we live in was a part of the pro­tected Kbal Ch­hay fresh­wa­ter area, ac­cord­ing to a gov­ern­ment de­cree.

“The land was do­nated to us. How­ever, the au­thor­i­ties only [gave land to some fam­i­lies as com­pen­sa­tion]. Our group of more than 100 fam­i­lies did not re­ceive any land to build houses on.

“Group 18 chief Chan Vi­bol de­stroyed our homes and our crops, and he does not al­low us to live on the land with­out an of­fi­cial let­ter from provin­cial au­thor­i­ties.

“He said it be­longs to the gov­ern­ment and they are merely fol­low­ing or­ders,” Veasna said.

“Vi­bol has threat­ened and in­tim­i­dated us, and pro­hib­ited us from ac­cess­ing t he area to build houses, but his team has in­vited buy­ers to come and pur­chase our land,” the pe­ti­tion says.

It claims that Vi­bol and real es­tate bro­kers have been work­ing to sell plots of land since the de­cree was is­sued on Novem­ber 20, 1997.

‘As­cer­tain bound­aries’

The gov­ern­ment is­sued a sub­de­cree, the pe­ti­tion claims, of­fer­ing part of the land in the pro­tected area to peo­ple who had been liv­ing there.

How­ever, Vi­bol claims provin­cial au­thor­i­ties asked him to pro­tect and de­fend the area, it adds.

“There­fore, to find a peacef ul so­lu­tion, peo­ple from the more than 100 fam­i­lies, who live on about 5ha of land, have asked for t he prov in­cia l gover­nor’s in­ter ven­tion to help in re­solv ing t his is­sue,” Veasna said.

Sot hearit h told The Post : “[On Mon­day] at around 8am, prov in­cia l aut hori­ties will in­spect t he site, mea­sure the land and rev iew the old boundar y i n ac­cor­dance with Sub-de­cree 116.

“We will rev iew the boundar y based the sub-de­cree and the land claimed by t he v il­lagers.

“How­ever, we did not give land to t he peo­ple.

“I will man­age the land in line with the sub-de­cree. I need to as­cer­tain bound­aries, like house bound­aries, to de­ter­mine which land be­longs to t he the gov­ern­ment and which be­longs to the peo­ple.”

You Veasna, who rep­re­sents com­mu­ni­ties locked in land dis­putes in Preah Si­hanouk prov­ince, told The Post that the vil­lagers have lived in the area for about five years – longer in some cases.

He said some had pur­chased their land from Vi­bol.

“I ask the provin­cial au­thor­i­ties to help find a so­lu­tion for the peo­ple be­cause some of them have lived in the area since 2014. They are all poor. They have no houses. Some have rented houses from other peo­ple,” he said.

Provin­cial hall spokesper­son Or Saroeun de­clined to com­ment as he was not fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion, he said.

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