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Koh Rong families fear losing their land

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
One of the homes that belongs to a worried villager. Fresh News

About 40 families in Sihanoukville’s Koh Rong commune who fear losing their land have requested intervention from provincial authorities in order to stop the activities of tycoon Sok Bun and officials from the Ministry of Land Management.

A letter, which bears the thumbprints of 42 families living in Koh Rong commune’s Prek Svay village and was submitted to Preah Sihanouk provincial hall on Monday, stated that they have lived in the area since the Sihanouk regime.

It said they have lived there planting crops for a living with land ownership documents recognised by both village and commune authorities.

However, last week Mr Bun and a working group from the Land Management Ministry went to take measurements on their land, the letter added.

The letter said the land measurements concerned residents as Mr Bun claimed to own up to 525 hectares of land on which the 42 families lived.

“The action of Sok Bun and his accomplices, who went to measure without the local authorities and the landowners knowing in advance, is completely illegal and impacts our rights and interests badly,” the letter said. “So, we ask the provincial governor to help prevent those people from coming onto our land from now on.”

Chhit Rattanak, deputy administrative director and spokesman of Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall, said yesterday that he had already received the families’ letter and that provincial leaders would check on their situation before making a decision.

Provincial Governor Yun Min said authorities were examining the case and asking people to stay calm.

“To the 42 families, please do not worry. We will review this case, so it doesn’t affect the people. The ministry has not yet decided to cut the land or do anything, so please stay calm,” he said.

Mr Bun could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Koh Rong commune chief Seng Hour Leang said that those residents had actually lived on the land for many years, and Mr Bun also had handwritten documents confirming occupation of the land.

“The people have lived and grown crops on that land for a long time. Tycoon Sok Bun also had handwritten transaction documents, but when he bought the land more than 10 years ago he didn’t measure it directly. It didn’t have any fences,” he said.

Mr Hour Leang confirmed that provincial authorities would take action to resolve the issue soon by asking both parties along with local authorities to discuss and resolve the problem.

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