Families Ask to Meet Agriculture Minister

Representatives of 163 families from Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district submitted a request to the Agriculture Ministry on Monday to meet with Minister Ouk Rabun over his request that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court delay the allocation of nearly a hectare of land the families were awarded after a long-running land dispute.

On Thursday, a municipal court deputy prosecutor was scheduled to allocate the land to the families, but the Agriculture Ministry issued a letter on Wednesday asking the court to review the status of the land before demarcating it.

Representatives of 163 families in a land dispute in Phnom Penh's Sen Sok district stand in front of the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday after submitting a request to meet with the agriculture minister. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Representatives of 163 families in a land dispute in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district stand in front of the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday after submitting a request to meet with the agriculture minister. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The letter, signed by Mr. Rabun, says the ministry swapped a 11,701-square-meter plot of land in 2009 with the Kim Hap Company, which built a new machinery department building for the ministry in return.

Agriculture Ministry spokesman Lor Reaksmey said Friday that the minister asked for the delay because it is not clear whom the land belongs to, but denied that the ministry might have sold off land being occupied by the families.

Oeung Seang Pang, 62, one of the about 12 representatives who submitted the request to meet with Mr. Rabun on Monday, said the land clearly belongs to the families.

“We have enough documents to prove that it is our villagers’ land,” she said. “The minister of agriculture has to give us an explanation.”

Mann Sophal, a lawyer for the families, said that after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court awarded the land to the families in 2007, the Land Management Ministry approved a list of the 163 families who could show they own the land.

“I think the Ministry of Agriculture is violating the court’s verdict,” he said.

Representatives for the Agriculture Ministry could not be reached for comment.

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