City Hall Partitions Land Claimed by Villagers and OCIC

Phnom Penh City Hall on Monday decided to partition a small plot of disputed land in the Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation’s 387-hectare lease on the Chroy Changva peninsula, giving 10 percent to villagers who claim the land.

The Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC) was granted a 99-year lease to the land for an undisclosed sum in 2011 to begin developing its “Chroy Changva City, City of the Future” on the peninsula.

Villagers, including some who live on a sliver of land between the concession and the Tonle Sap river, lay claim to swaths of land within the concession, which has been filled with sand by the company in preparation for development.

Chroy Changva district governor Khlaing Huot, who met Monday with about 50 families who claim the land, said the municipality made the decision after considering the cases put forward by both parties.

“We gave the decision for the land owners and for the company to cut 10 percent and 40 percent” of the disputed plot, respectively, Mr. Huot said.

The governor said the remaining 50 percent of the disputed plot—the size of which neither he nor other officials could identify—would be given to the municipality to build schools, pagodas, roads and administrative offices for his district.

Mr. Huot said City Hall had not been biased toward OCIC in the decision, saying authorities had also counseled the firm to stop kicking up dust during construction and honor its promises to beautify the peninsula.

“I did not work for the company; we are cutting the residential land for [the villagers],” he said. “Every day, I observe the land on the riverside. If they do not build the garden, I will work against them to stop them.”

OCIC project manager Touch Samnang said that the firm was happy with the decision from City Hall.

“We have to get the 40 percent of the 387 hectares, because we spent a lot, such as by building the overpasses and roads,” he said.

Yet villagers who attended Monday’s meeting questioned why City Hall was taking 50 percent of the land that had only ever been part of a dispute between themselves and OCIC.

“How can I agree to take 10 percent if my parents have managed [the land] for a long time? Why does City Hall have the rights to take the land?” said Moeng Sophal, 35, whose family claims 4,000 square meters of the disputed land.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the villagers should be happy to have been given 10 percent of the land, as they had no right to have been living on their land at all.

“The villagers, they are living on state land, so they should be understanding about it,” he said.

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