The government has announced the approval of a feasibility study to be conducted in Koh Kong province, signalling to demonstrators who have been rallying in front of the Land Management Ministry office in Phnom Penh that their land dispute may come to a close.
Hundreds of Koh Kong province villagers have been demanding that authorities solve their land dispute with Union Development Group in Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.
Tek Reth Samrach, a secretary of state with the Council of Ministers, said in a letter addressed to the Environment Ministry and Koh Kong Provincial Hall on May 16 that the government has approved the study.
The study is to be conducted by the Land Ministry in Prek Khsach and Thmar Sor communes, where the Union Development Group owns an Economic Land Concession.
“Union Development has to preserve the mangrove forests, flooded forests, jungles and hillside areas as a conservation area, they are part of our master plan and development program,” Mr Reth Samrach said in the letter.
Seng Lot, Land Management Ministry spokesman, confirmed yesterday that a working group tasked with providing a solution to the conflict have begun to end the years-long dispute, adding that detailed results will eventually be published.
Mr Reth Samrach yesterday could not confirm how much land would be partitioned and distributed to villagers. Ouk Pheaktra, Koh Kong deputy governor, and Sok Sothy, spokesman for Koh Kong Provincial Hall, declined to comment.
Environment Ministry spokesmen Sao Sopheap and Srun Darith could not be reached for comment.
More than 20 demonstrators gathered again yesterday in front of the Land Ministry, demanding that the resolution process be sped up.
Rout Sophal, a representative of villagers, said that his group saw the letter on social media, noting that people are optimistic and sceptical at the same time.
“Our people are happy if the problem is solved but we haven’t heard anything official,” he said. “So we will continue to demand the acceleration of the resolution.”
Mr Sophal demanded that authorities begin registering people’s data.
“The authorities sometimes told us to register the data in this commune and sometimes that commune,” Mr Sophal said. “There is great division inside and outside of the community, making it difficult for people to be processed. So we came here today to ask them to collect all the data of all the people involved in this land dispute.”