Government Says 3.4 Million Land Titles Issued

The government has issued a total of 3.4 million land titles across the country, 500,000 of them since a renewed push personally orchestrated by Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to new figures released by the Land Management Ministry.

In a notice posted to its website Friday, the ministry says the last 500,000 were issued since mid-2012, when Mr. Hun Sen issued Order 001, an ambitious plan originally intended to provide titles to 350,000 households living precariously on state land.

It adds that more than one million hectares of state land have been “cut out” to provide for the titles. That includes 340,000 hectares taken back from economic land concessions already handed out to agri-business firms, many of which have been accused of stealing land from local communities.

The notice, dated April 24, offers no explanation for its timing, and a spokesman for the Ministry of Land Management declined to comment.

But its release on Friday came just one day after a lengthy report from local rights group Adhoc claimed a near doubling of the number of land disputes it recorded last year, despite the titling push.

The Adhoc report said many poor Cambodians with legitimate land claims were continuing to lose out to powerful interests and that Mr. Hun Sen’s titling program, having been implemented outside the usual government channels, is void of any independent oversight or functional complaint mechanisms.

NGOs say they have been barred from monitoring the program.

Latt Ky, the head of Adhoc’s land program, said he believed the government put out the notice precisely to try to counter his NGO’s report, adding that the government’s new numbers were misleading.

“We saw that the Ministry of Land Management has new data in the [notice], but it has not yet properly implemented these things, such as the social land concessions,” he said.

According to Adhoc, the government approved 485 of the social concessions for land-poor Cambodians last year. But it added that the vast majority of them were approved before July’s national elections—as a possible ploy for votes, it suggests—and that it remained to be seen how many of the concessions would be used as intended.

Mr. Ky said Adhoc had already begun investigating that very question and would be issuing another report in the coming months.

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