After two months of soliciting public comment, the Land Management Ministry announced Monday that its internal probe of alleged extortion in return for land titles has identified no suspects but the investigation will continue.
Following reports that ministry officials in Prey Veng and Kandal provinces had demanded payments of $20 from hundreds of villagers in return for issuing supposedly free land titles, the ministry in November announced that it was establishing telephone hotlines in a total of 11 provinces to allow the public to lodge complaints.
In a statement printed Monday in Koh Santhepheap Daily newspaper, the ministry announced the results of its work in Prey Veng and Kandal.
“The ministry has conducted an investigation of the mentioned areas in Kandal and Prey Veng provinces and has found no Land Management officials involved in the problem,” the statement said.
Neither Minister Im Chhun Lim nor Secretary of State Chhan Saphan could be reached for comment Monday.
However Im Soy, deputy governor of Prey Veng district, said he was still on the lookout for wrongdoing: “I want the people who gave money to come to file a complaint so we will have enough evidence to punish that person.”
“If government officials who are responsible for land titles ask people for $10 or $20 for their work, it must be corruption since the government never takes money from people for land title services,” he said.
Kan Chan, who is in charge of receiving complaints in the probe, said Monday that so far only written complaints have been submitted.
“Since it started, I have never received complaints by telephone, only written documents,” he said, declining to provide further details.
The ministry is reviewing land title issuing in Phnom Penh as well as Preah Sihanouk, Takeo, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, Kompong Speu, Battambang and Siem Reap provinces.
Preliminary results disclosed in November by the ministry’s own “complaints resolution committee” said there was no evidence of extortion in Svay Rolum commune in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district or Prey Veng province’s Prey Veng district.