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Interior Minister Says Land Near Borders Not For Rent

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:

Interior Minister Sar Kheng reminded governors of border provinces yesterday to pay special attention to issues surrounding the lease of Cambodian land to foreign nationals.
Mr. Kheng also addressed illegal importation and immigration through secondary border checkpoints during his remarks at a ceremony marking the appointment of the new Banteay Meanchey provincial governor, Soun Bovor, who by Royal Decree is replacing former governor Kousoum Saoeuth.
“When we open secondary border checkpoints, there will be illegal smuggling of goods, which will cause a loss for the national budget, and also promote illegal immigration,” Mr. Kheng said.
“Leasing land to people from neighboring countries will create further complications for the Cambodian government, and will make it difficult to handle problems in the future when they arise. Therefore, the local authorities must plan effective measures.”    
The minister also took a shot at opposition parties during his speech, saying they have a history of playing with sensitive land issues for political gain.
“Regarding land issues, regardless of the province, the opposition party brings it up for the sake of the ballot. Thus, we should resolve problems for people immediately and not use judicial mechanisms for dealing with people’s problems,” he added.  
Late last year, in an effort to avoid a continuation of contentious border activity between the Kingdom and its neighbors,  the government ordered the governors of border provinces and district chiefs to forbid all Cambodian people who have land near the border from leasing their property to foreigners.
However, the governor of recently-formed Tbong Khmum province, Prach Chan, told Khmer Times yesterday that residents in his province had rented their land to Vietnamese nationals in the past.
“Previously, there were a number of people in Ponhea Krek district and Memot district who rented their land to Vietnamese farmers,” Mr. Chan said.
“But now, we have already educated all local residents who have land near the border to stop leasing it to Vietnamese farmers,” Mr. Chan said.
“After the Interior Ministry informed us, now there are no [plots of land leased to Vietnamese farmers] in the province,” he continued, warning that if any Cambodian farmer allows Vietnamese farmers to plant rice on Cambodian land, he will follow government orders to crack down on them immediately.
Spokesman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party Yem Ponhearith could not be reached yesterday.
Political Analyst Ou Virak said it was accurate to say that the Cambodian government had forbade its citizens with landholdings near the border from leasing their property to foreigners. The reason, he said, was tied to Cambodia and its neighbors’ unfinished border demarcation.
“If the government did not forbid the citizens from leasing, it would have created problems for future demarcation, with citizens from other countries claiming Cambodian land as their own,” he said.

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