In an effort to put a stop to land swaps in Phnom Penh, City Hall has called on state institutions with offices in Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune to register or re-register for land titles, a municipal official said Sunday.
“We need those ministries and institutions to come and register to get land titles from the municipal land management department, so that no one can sell or swap state property,” said City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.
“This is just the first step; we will also notify the other communes in the nine districts,” Mr. Dimanche added.
A letter signed by Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong on November 25 states that 19 government properties in Tonle Bassac are without land titles, including the National Assembly, the Senate, the National Police Commissariat, the Fisheries Administration and seven ministries. The list also includes three pagodas, three schools and Kab Ko market.
The directive was issued on the same day that Mr. Dimanche announced that the municipality’s department of public works and transport would be moved from near Olympic Stadium to new offices built by the Khun Sea Development Group on Russei Keo district’s Chroy Changva peninsula.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has repeatedly denounced land swaps, in which private companies receive coveted state property in urban centers in exchange for constructing new, purpose-built government offices on cheaper tracts of land.
Beng Hong Socheat Khemro, spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management, on Sunday declined to comment on why so many government properties are still without land titles, and said he knew nothing about the municipality’s recent directive.
“I don’t know about this,” Mr. Khemro said, referring questions back to City Hall.
Men Bunrith, chief of the Land Management Ministry’s administration department, noted that even his ministry—the body responsible for issuing formal property rights—does not yet possess a land title.
“The ministry registered two decades ago, but does not have a land title…. We will register again if required by law to do so,” Mr. Bunrith said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Woods)
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