Families in Boeng Kak Asked to Give Up Land for Titles

Families still waiting for promised land titles in Phnom Penh’s Boeng Kak neighborhood said Sunday that the municipal government is offering to give them their long-awaited tenure rights only if they agree to give up part of their land.

About 100 Boeng Kak families were left out of a plan, announced by Prime Minister Hun Sen in August 2011, to give land titles to the hundreds of neighborhood households facing eviction at the hands of a real estate project by CPP Senator Lao Meng Khin.

Now those 100 or so families are slowly getting titles, too. But some of them are being asked to give up half their land first, sometimes more.

Sitting on a straw mat inside her bare, wooden home on the edge of what used to be Boeng Kak lake, before being filled in with sand by Mr. Meng Khin, Kong Sokha flipped through an application form City Hall officials signed in June confirming that she was due 133 square meters.

But when city officials returned about a month ago with a title offer, she said, they asked her to accept only 72 square meters, explaining that the rest was needed for a road or was state land.

“I can’t explain how angry I am, I feel so upset,” she said of the offer, which she promptly rejected. “I will never accept a piece of land that size because I would lose a lot.”

Ms. Sokha, who claims to have lived on the land for the past two decades, said as many as 30 of her neighbors were in the same situation.

A few doors down, Phorn Sophal was holding his baby daughter outside the door to his home. Above the frame was a CPP party sticker and another that declared his modest wooden abode an “eviction free zone.”

Mr. Sophal said the city had measured his land at 180 square meters but last month offered him only 72 and asked that he “contribute” the rest to the area’s development. Like Ms. Sokha, he refused.

“It’s not fair at all,” he said. “I would agree to lose four or five square meters, but if I have to lose half my land I will never agree.”

Boeng Kak resident Sles Musha said he, too, was asked a few weeks ago to cut his 168 square meters down to 72 and, like the others, refused. He accused Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong of going back on a promise he made at a meeting with villagers about three months ago.

“He said the villagers will get the same size land they had, meaning they would not lose even one meter,” he said. “But after they measured my land three times, they turned around and did this. I don’t understand it.”

Village 22 chief Men Sokha said he knew of about 18 families complaining that they were being asked to give up a part of their land in return for a title, but referred questions to City Hall.

Hok Huor Lim, who heads the city’s legal and human rights department, declined to comment because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

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