Kampot province –Veterans here are disappointed over the government’s failure to uphold a promise made years ago to provide them with suitable farming land and homes for their years of service in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
In Chhuk district’s Techo Aphiwat commune, veterans said that the lack of agricultural land has hampered their ability to support their families.
A once vibrant community, only 60 families now live in the area. Other families left to live with their children in other provinces, said 74-year-old former army officer Roth Sam Arn.
“People are getting older, and they still have no land to cultivate,” Mr Sam Arn said. “Over 35 people have died, and over 30 people are seriously ill.”
Seven years ago, 240 veteran families had been promised plots of land sized at 1,200 square metres each to construct homes, as well as an additional hectare of farming land.
Since then, Mr Sam Arn and his family have been living in the area after his home was built by the government.
However, Mr Sam Arn and the other families still do not have land titles for their homes, nor the promised one hectare of farming land.
As the election draws near, many in the area said that the government hasn’t delivered their promise.
At his brick home, Mr Sam Arn said that a deed to the land would not only provide a permanent roof over the heads of his family, but also a degree of financial security.
“If we want to get a loan from a bank, they are going to need a land title as collateral,” the former military officer said. “Because when it comes to loans, we like to band together and borrow money as a group.”
Mr Sam Arn noted that as a last resort, his family is willing to negotiate with the government to be relocated to another area, as long as land for farming would still be provided.
“We will accept land provided by the government elsewhere, as long as we can cultivate it,” he said. “We are being patient, waiting for a resolution, but even patience has its limits.”
A staunch supporter of the CPP-led government, Mr Sam Arn said that all veterans living in the area also support Prime Minister Hun Sen and will likely continue doing so on voting day.
“Even though we have some problems related to land, we will cooperate with each other and support the CPP,” Mr Sam Arn said. “Samdech Hun Sen is our hero; I believe that only the CPP can resolve our issue, not the other parties.”
In May, the veterans went to Phnom Penh to seek a resolution from the Land Management Ministry.
Officials said at the time that the issue was still being resolved and they could not issue a timeline for resolution.
Lay Sothy, the wife of a veteran, said that she relocated from Kandal province to live in the area. She had expected that the livelihood of her family would be improved after receiving housing and a plot of farmland.
“I feel so angry because the authorities said my land issue would be resolved and I am disappointed that the resolution is taking so long,” she said. “I worry that Hun Sen is not even aware of the issue, and that’s why we went to Phnom Penh.”
Deputy provincial Governor Chieng Phalla said that other matters have taken a higher priority in the area.
Mr Phalla said that flooding in the area has to be resolved first.“We can continue to find a solution after the election, and we’ll find it together,” he said. “We will never abandon them. We are working to help them get their farmland.”