A district-level land management official in Phnom Penh promised villagers 47 hectares of land in the Boeng Tompun area on Tuesday, though key officials were unaware of the announcement, and it remained unclear if he would be able to keep such a promise.
Prak Sokun Samnang, head of Dangkao district’s land management office, told an assembly of more than 100 people from three villages located on Boeng Tompun lake that he had cut 47 hectares of land for them and would work on acquiring land titles for them, according to attendees of the meeting.
The entirety of Boeng Tompun has been granted to well-connected developer ING Holdings—according to ING’s website—as part of a massive satellite city the company has planned for the area.
However, contacted after the meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Sokun Samnang said the 47 hectares would be cut from a 520-hectare government reservoir project, not ING’s land. The two projects appear to overlap, making the ownership status of the land unclear.
Eang Vuthy, executive director of Equitable Cambodia, a land rights NGO that sent representatives to Tuesday’s meeting, initially said the authorities’ promise was a “very good step,” but he was under the impression the land had been cut from the ING development.
After being asked about Mr. Sokun Samnang’s comments to reporters denying ING’s ownership of the land, Mr. Vuthy called for further information from officials.
“The district authority needs to clarify and explain to the villagers whether or not the ING Holdings project will affect the community, and if so, how much,” Mr. Vuthy said.
Questions about the 47 hectares were passed along by government spokesmen on Tuesday. Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot referred questions to City Hall, while municipal spokesman Met Measpheakdey said he hadn’t heard of the 47 hectares being granted and referred reporters back to Mr. Sokun Samnang.
Meanwhile, Dangkao district governor Nuth Puthdara, who was also at Tuesday’s meeting, said he had not heard of the promised 47 hectares and did not know anything about any assurances made to villagers, noting that it would be the responsibility of City Hall to grant land.
Khoun Vannak, a construction worker from Kva, one of the affected villages, said he would wait and see how things developed.
“I trust authorities 80 percent, but who knows,” he said on Tuesday. “They can lie to us.”
(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Byrne)