Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered all provincial governors to prevent encroachment on state-protected land to avoid land disputes.
In a letter issued yesterday, Kheng said in order to implement effective prevention measures, the provincial governors should monitor data on people who have been occupying the lands for a long time.
The protected areas and forests should be mapped out to avoid illegal land clearing, he said. Local authorities should also allocate land to those currently living on protected land and prepare 10 percent of the land for communal use.
The monitoring and management of developments regarding land tenure in protected areas and forest cover must be strengthened to prevent further encroachment, the letter said.
Encroachment on any new or illegally acquired state forest or state land shall be strictly prohibited and met with strict administrative and legal measures.
Kheng has asked the provincial governors to educate, guide and clarify the situation of land tenure to the people. They should tell them the government’s willingness to resolve the land issues for the people so they can cooperate with relevant authorities. He said measures must be taken to prevent and crack down on brokers and encroachers in accordance with the law.
The ministry added that for land disputes, efforts must be made to mediate peace, transparency, integrity and justice by meeting directly with the people to better understand details of the land dispute and the people’s protest.
It said all provincial authorities should advise the city, district and commune administrations to certify or sign land titles or documents in accordance with the law.
At the same time, legal action has to be taken against any officials who certify or sign any illegal or land-related documents.
Vei Samnang, Kampong Speu provincial governor, told Khmer Times yesterday that a team of experts led by provincial deputy governor Sar Soprath, including the provincial Department of Environment, provincial military police, police and provincial and district authorities, dismantled a house, hut and fences in two locations in Kirirom National Park, after these structures were built illegally on 12 hectares.
“Provincial authorities, in collaboration with the Department of Environment, used strict measures to search for the offenders after land grabbing was discovered in Kirirom National Park,” he said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen last week announced that the government will be giving state lands to the its long-term occupants as part of efforts to improve the people’s livelihoods amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He ordered the Ministries of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Land Management to carve out land in forest covers, protected areas or wildlife sanctuaries, which belong to the state, in provinces such as Preah Vihear and Koh Kong.
Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said, “The ministries have been implementing the order of Samdech Techo Hun Sen.”
“Cambodia currently has a total of 69 natural resource conservation areas covering about 7.3 million hectares,” Pheaktra said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, said he was glad the affected people have been awarded land.
“We ask for proper monitoring to ensure that local authorities are not practising corruption and nepotism. This will allow residents to to own the land they have lived on for a long time,” Sen Karuna said.