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Questions Raised About Land-Titling Effort

Va Sonyka / Khmer Times Share:

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – The Cambodian government was not entirely transparent during its 2012 land measuring campaign, according to the 300-page report “New Actions and Existing Policies: The Implementation and Impacts of Order 01” launched at NGO Forum earlier this week.

“Order 01” refers to a government policy implemented on May 17, 2012 intended to strengthen the management of economic land concessions (ELCs) and resolve disputes between those who hold them and communities affected by them. The order also suspended the granting of new ELCs, called for a review of existing ones, and the suspension of those that had failed to comply with the law. 

The forum asks the government to publish the detailed results of the land-titling program that followed. It included demarcation of ELCs, sites where land disputes were occurring, and land held by villagers who did not have titles for it. 

Government Move on ELCs “Effective”

Suon Sopha, Deputy Director of the General Department of Cadastre and Geography, said that the government was transparent when it announced where the land measurements were made. It announced where demarcation would occur 30 days in advance so that those concerned could voice their concerns. 

The purpose of the titling campaign was to help resolve land issues and provide the basis for granting titles to legal owners of land who lacked them, the official said.  

The research showed that Order 01was effective in blocking new ELCs and in suspending ELCs that were either illegal of whose owners had breached their contracts. However, it also shows that “there are still many people who continue to live in insecure circumstances” and many “live in survey areas but were unable to access the survey process.”

Ethnic Communities Torn Apart

Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said there were many reasons why some people did not receive titles. “The land measuring method raises serious questions,” he said, explaining that members of ethnic groups had been asked by officials to sign agreements saying they would relinquish their right to own land they used for worship. This violates Article 6 of the 2009 sub-decree on the Procedure for Registering Indigenous Community Land.

That article stipulates that indigenous ethnic groups can own community land where they can live and farm as well as forests with which they have spiritual ties, and cemeteries. 

Village resident Van Samoern said she was asked to leave her ethnic community in Kampong Speu province due to the land-titling program. Students who carried out the demarcation did so in her community despite objections from its residents, she said.

The student volunteers measured the land and then parceled it into private plots, ending the tradition of communal land. Ms. Samoern said that one effect of the titling program was that it tore ethnic communities apart by turning community land into private land allocated per household. “Families were broken apart,” she said.

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