Families living on contested land on Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva peninsula were on Wednesday given a choice by municipal governor Pa Socheatvong: give up 90 percent of your land and live on the remainder or sell it all at $40 per square meter.
Mr. Socheatvong visited the disputed site in an attempt to placate 150-odd families from three communes that stand in the way of a $3-billion real estate project and the widening of National Road 6, which the governor said would go ahead.
“Villagers, you can agree to take 10 percent of the land, with a land title issued by City Hall, or we can give you $40 per square meter,” Mr. Socheatvong said at a market built on the peninsula by the Overseas Cambodian Investment Corperation, which has been granted a 99-year lease to develop what was once a verdant wetland.
Mr. Socheatvong conceded that some of the families had paid for the land they have lived on since the 1970s and 1980s—shortly after the Khmer Rouge destroyed all records of land ownership—but argued that they could now turn a profit by selling their plots to City Hall.
“I think all of you already know that this state land will be developed and that you bought it for only four or five dollars a square meter,” he said. “Now you can decide [to take this offer from City Hall] and make a profit.”
The disputed land, most of which has been pumped full of sand dredged from the confluence of the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers, includes parts of: Chroy Changva commune, which runs along National Road 6; Prek Tasek commune, which runs along the eastern bank of the Tonle Sap; and Prek Liep commune, located in the northeastern tip of the OCIC development.
Hundreds of families have already made way for the project, but the remainder are proving hard to move.
“If I agree to the master plan and choose 10 percent, how much land will I live on,” said Phin Khenh, who claims more than 300 square meters in Prek Liep commune. “And if I agree to take the $40 per square meter, it is not enough [money] to buy new land.”