A majority of land disputes in Pursat province has been resolved through the provincial administration’s intervention efforts, an investigation by human rights group Licadho revealed. Nonetheless, one land dispute remains in need of government intervention.
Provincial land management department director Aun Sothear on Tuesday said the province has resolved most land disputes, with resettlement areas already in place for affected villagers.
“So far, 23 families have been embroiled in land disputes. Of them, only 15 families remain in dispute while the others have accepted the provincial administration’s mediation,” he said.
During last week’s town hall meeting, provincial officials, led by provincial governor Mao Thonin, heard 67 community problems, some of which include land disputes. The weekly forum, he said, was set up to hear the residents’ problems – an initiative which seeks to expedite the administration’s intervention efforts.
“We have set up dispute resolution teams – in the provincial, district and commune level – to monitor and settle issues,” said Mr Thonin. “Of course, we cannot solve every problem. If the parties are unable to reach a compromise, they can take the issue to court.”
On Tuesday, Licadho’s Pursat investigator Kem Kimsrun said the unresolved case in the province involves a long-standing dispute between 15 families living in Veal Veng district’s Thmar Da commune and rubber plantation MDS Company.
“The 15 families have been in a land dispute with MDS for nearly 10 years. Although provincial authorities have intervened for a resolution, the residents refuse to accept the compromise, saying the relocation area that had been laid out is significantly smaller in size than the land they currently occupy,” said Mr Kimsrun.
The villagers’ representative, Youg Rann, said they had been living in the area since the 1998 integration after commune authorities distributed the land among them.
The area they have been living in, she said, was previously covered in mines with no paved roads but through their efforts, it was transformed into a livable area. By 2010, she said the MDS company had swooped in several times to clear their crops, thus sparking the dispute.
“We filed a complaint to the district and provincial authorities but we could not accept the resolution [they provided]. One of the families owns five to seven hectares of land but the social land concession offered by the provincial authorities gave the family only one and a half hectares,” said Ms Rann.
The families on Tuesday said they had filed a complaint with the Land Ministry five times. In response, the ministry yesterday told them to come to the capital for a resolution.
Neither the residents nor a Land Ministry spokesman could be reached for further comments by press time.