Authorities in Kratie province’s Snuol district on Wednesday furnished more than 300 families with long-awaited titles for land confiscated from a South Korean agribusiness firm on Saturday, but cut 17 families out of the deal because they lacked a legitimate claim to the plots they sought.
Provincial deputy Governor Khan Chamnan said that ownership documents were handed out to 312 families living on the 1,562-hectare tract confiscated from Horizon Agriculture Development, but that 17 families were denied plots because the land they wanted titles for had never belonged to the company, and was in fact state land.
“I wish to state that the confiscated land [claimed by the 17 families] did not belong to the company and there had been no pepper or rubber plantations,” Mr. Chamnan said.
The deputy governor said authorities would register the additional 59 hectares for the 17 families if they could provide documents proving their claims that the land was measured for them as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 2012 land-titling scheme.
Mr. Chamnan acknowledged that some of the 17 families had already produced such proof, but said the documents submitted were not sufficiently detailed.
Land Management Minister Im Chhun Lim intervened in the high-profile dispute on Saturday, announcing that Horizon Agriculture’s claim to the contested area would be revoked and divided up among the protesting villagers because the company had not developed the land.
One villager who did not receive a title Wednesday, Yen Senghong, 57, said she would protest her exclusion after first consulting with village representatives.
“I was very happy when Excellency Im Chhun Lim announced that he would give the land back to all the protesters, but I was very disappointed when authorities told me my document was not sufficient to get a land title,” Ms. Senghong said.
Horizon Agriculture director Lim Jo-heon said company representatives planned to meet with officials from the Land Management Ministry this week to discuss compensation for the company, or possibly a new concession.
“Our company got a message from Land Management Department saying that they will invite us within few days and will explain to us their final decision,” Mr. Jo-heon said in an email.
“At a previous meeting with them they mentioned about compensation [or] a new concession land so we have to see the final offer before the company takes a next step.”
Mr. Jo-heon added that he was still displeased about the government’s decision to confiscate the land.
“If people really lived there, then it means thousands of people lived there and must be almost the biggest town in that area which is nonsense,” he said.