Families in Kampot Receive Unofficial ‘Titles’ to Land

Like millions of other Cam­bodians, the 218 households of the Daun Taok fishing village off the coast of Kampot province with roots in the area that may date back to the 1880s, still have no official titles to the land they call home. But thanks to the efforts of a local housing rights NGO, the ethnic Cham families now have what may be the next best thing.

Capping off a two-year effort, Sah­makum Teang Tnaut yesterday started handing the last of the families their “community titles,” certificates mapping out their homes, stating how long they claim to have lived on the land, and bearing the thumb prints of their village and commune chiefs.

Though not official documents in any way, STT hopes the certificates provide a bridge between having no documents at all and real titles handed out by the government’s cadastral department.

It remains to be seen what residents will gain from the certificates.

“If the government is determined to push ahead with evictions, these documents, to be frank, are not going to do very much,” said Hallam Goad, STT program development adviser. But with the new rules governing evictions that the government approved last year, STT hopes their certificates will offer at least some protection.

“We hope that the STT project shows [the government] how the first few steps, namely comprehensive mapping and documenting of communities, could be done,” Mr Goad said.

Troeuy Koh commune chief Pov Son said the project will help au­thorities supply the community with the utilities it lacks. But any fam­ilies near the shore deemed to be living on their land illegally will be no closer to winning real titles, he added.

“It [the certificates] just confirms the authorities know they live there, but they still live there illegally,” he said. “If the government needs that place, they have to give it back. Whether or not they get compensation depends on the government.”

STT plans on continuing the project in Kampot and Phnom Penh.



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