Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday warned of legal action against anyone caught taking advantage of state-mandated land distributions, two days after he ordered several ministries to oversee the transfer of state-protected land to its long-term occupants.
The order was given to the Ministries of Agriculture, Land Management and Environment during a weekly Cabinet meeting held at the Peace Palace on Friday and is part of the government efforts to improve the people’s standard of living, a Facebook post by the premier said yesterday.
However, Mr Hun Sen noted: “People living in the state-owned lands are absolutely prohibited from clearing and/or encroaching on the forests to expand their portion of the land.”
He also warned against high-ranking officials and citizens of considerable wealth whom he said have previously hired residents to grab land in their stead and build between 10 and 20 cottages on the land at night.
“Relevant ministries and authorities have to carry out the land distribution thoroughly and avoid taking advantage of the process by keeping some land for their gain. Otherwise, they would receive punishment,” said Mr Hun Sen.
“The officials and other people of power should be contented with what they have and [not grab any more land] to avoid putting [vulnerable villagers] at a disadvantage,” he added.
Furthermore, the premier said another 10 percent of the forestland will be given to the residents for communal use, which could be a source of herbal medicines or provide food and shelter for their livestock.
According to the Cabinet meeting, included in the land transfers are state land from the provinces of Koh Kong, Preah Vihear, Oddar Meanchey, Stung Treng, Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri.
Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment yesterday.
However, Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra in a brief statement to Khmer Times yesterday said “the ministries have been thoroughly implementing the order of Samdech Techo Hun Sen”.
Bun Chhan, 31, a resident of Koh Kong province’s Dang Peng commune and who is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over his alleged illegal occupation of a wildlife conservation area, expressed support for the premier’s directive.
“My parents have occupied the land in this area since 1994 but have not yet received a land title. My father is also currently detained in court for illegally clearing a protected area. I hope that after the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the land allocation, ministry officials will follow through and issue the land titles to the people,” he added.
Mr Pheaktra last month said Cambodia currently has a total of 69 natural resource conservation areas covering about 7.3 million hectares.