The total number of land disputes and related protests fell in 2017, the Ministry of Land Management said while some NGOs claimed activists are to afraid of arrests to raise their concerns.
Land Management Minister Chea Sophara, speaking at his ministry’s annual meeting in Phnom Penh on Thursday, said the decline was a result of the ministry’s diligent efforts.
“The ministry has continued to work hard to register land and solve land disputes by all means possible, resulting in a remarkable decrease in the number of land disputes and protests,” he said.
He added that to succeed in the land sector, the ministry worked tirelessly to manage land usage and divided land with fairness and transparency.
In 2017, according to a ministry report, the cadastral survey commission solved 85 land dispute cases for 326 families, which amounted to 44.5 hectares. It found 37 cases to have been wrongly authorized and withdrew another 11 complaints.
The report added that from the start of its work on land disputes until the end of 2017, the ministry has successfully solved 3,655 cases for 19,374 families, equalling 6068.2 hectares. It found 2,542 cases had been wrongly authorized and withdrew another 829 complaints.
The ministry’s working group on land dispute resolution in 2017 received 511 complaints, 123 of which were resolved. Twenty-five cases were completely solved while 98 cases were transferred.
The report added that from April 2016 until the end of 2017, the ministry received 1,268 complaints, solving 69 and transferring 169 to the proper authority.
In addition, 46 land dispute cases between people and tycoon Lork Huor were solved while 10 cases between people and tycoon Suy Sophan were solved and 17 more are currently being resolved.
A total of 1,230 land titles were distributed to residents of Koh Rong in Preah Sihanouk province by cutting land from a Royal Group Company investment project, the ministry added.
Ministry officials have also been busy working on long-running land disputes between villagers and sugarcane plantations in Kampong Speu, Koh Kong, Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces.
Sen Karona, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said his group also noticed a decline in land disputes and protests.
“One factor causing the decline in land disputes is the ministry-created mobile group for land dispute resolution located in all provinces and cities,” he said. “And the government stopped providing economic land concessions to private companies.”
“Some people who had land disputes with companies have still not had their cases solved yet,” he said. “We congratulate the Land Management Ministry but please help speed up resolution.”
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the number of land disputes and protests have decreased since 2013.
Lor Davuth, director general of the Land Management Ministry’s general department of land management, said last week that the ministry reformed the capacity of the working group on land dispute resolution and created mobile working groups to speed up resolutions.
There are 33 working groups and 30 mobile working groups for land dispute resolution in all provinces and Phnom Penh, according to Mr Davuth.
“The ministry created working groups for big land disputes as in the case of tycoon Lork Huor, the case of tycoon Suy Sophan and the case of the people on Koh Rong island in Preah Sihanouk province,” he said.