The Council of Ministers has ordered Cambodian conglomerate Sokimex Co Ltd and major land developer Phanimex Co Ltd to resolve a long-running dispute over 55 hectares of land in Kandal province and Phnom Penh.
In a Dec 12 notice, Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhon ordered the two companies to split evenly the disputed territory.
“If either side is not satisfied, it will be regarded as an insult to the government,” the notice stated.
Phanimex President Suy Sophan said she had purchased the land legally in the early 1990s, and obtained a land title. She claimed that in 2004 Sokimex, which owned a neighboring plot, began encroaching on her territory.
“I agreed to share half because I don’t want the government to have a headache,” she said Sunday, adding that she avoided bringing the dispute into the courts because she felt government officials could better resolve the issue.
Sokimex CEO Sok Kong declined comment Sunday, referring questions to Prak Sokhon, who could not be reached for comment.
Kien Svay District Deputy Governor Chea Bunthoeun said the dispute between the two companies began when property values began to rise. “This is a top-people problem. I cannot say which side is right or wrong,” he said.
SRP lawmaker and National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes Deputy Chairman Eng Chhay Eang said the case illustrates the weakness of the legal system.
“This shows the weakness of the implementation of the law,” he said, adding that disputes over titled land must be resolved by courts, but disputes for untitled land may be resolved by the Council of Ministers.
He added that the Council of Ministers typically takes up land dispute cases involving powerful players. “The court is afraid to resolve cases involving elephants,” he said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on the details of the Sokimex-Phanimex dispute, but said the notice from the Council of Ministers was for information purposes only. “The notice means nothing. It has no power to overrule a court decision,” he said.