The Land Management Ministry on Friday rejected a complaint from a group of people claiming authorities had seized their land in Kratie province’s Snuol district.
On Friday, the group, which claimed to represent 154 families, protested in front of the ministry and asked it to intervene in the land dispute involving 744 hectares in the district’s Pi Thnou commune.
They accused Kratie provincial officials of seizing the land to distribute it to more than 1,800 families.
A ministry press release on Friday said that those who protested had in fact occupied the state land illegally.
“The people who came to protest at the ministry had illegally encroached onto the state land, occupying between five and 100 hectares each,” it said. “Some of them already own land in other places and do not qualify for land concessions.”
The statement noted that a ministry working team and provincial authorities had previously cooperated to provide 3,546 hectares of land to 1,854 families for cultivation.
Um Bandoul, one of the protesters, yesterday claimed that the 154 families had been living on their land since 2006 but the provincial authorities and the ministry had now accused them of living there illegally and taken their land to distribute to other people.
“I cannot accept the ministry’s accusation against us,” he said. “However, I will stop protesting but I don’t know if the others will continue to do so.”
Yen Sokhaley, another protester who claimed to own more than one hectare of land in Pi Thnou commune, said they had lived and cultivated the land since 2000 without obstruction or prohibition from the village, commune, district or provincial authorities.
“We are dissatisfied because we did not illegally encroach onto state land as the ministry says,” he said. “We will continue to protest and seek intervention from the ministry again soon.”
Khan Chamnan, Kratie deputy governor, yesterday said that the authorities will consider finding a solution for residents who protest over land disputes.
“In the case of these citizens [154 families] who went to protest in Phnom Penh, we will address their problem later,” he said. “We cannot resolve two cases at the same time, because we are now measuring land to distribute plots to other residents [more than 1,800 families] who were also involved in a land dispute.
In March, a group representing more than 1,800 families in Pi Thnou commune held several protests in Phnom Penh over a land dispute with Memot Rubber Plantation Company, which resulted in violent clashes.
After the ministry and provincial authorities intervened, they agreed to accept an offer of two hectares per family and the authorities are currently sub-dividing the plots.