Kratie Case Exposes Flaws in Land-Titling Scheme

The latest case of scores of villagers from Kratie province tied up in a land dispute with an ag­ribusiness firm has once again highlighted failures in the 2012 land-titling scheme launched by Prime Minister Hun Sen to settle unresolved land disputes and distribute hundreds of thousands of land titles.

The villagers from Snuol district are currently staying at Phnom Penh’s Samakki Raingsey pagoda and plan to march to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house on Thursday to deliver a third petition requesting that they be given land promised to them by Mr. Hun Sen’s student volunteers.

Last Tuesday, they were blocked from marching to the prime minister’s house with copies of the land certificates issued to them in Au­gust and September 2012 as part of the land-titling campaign launched in the run-up to last year’s general election.

Provincial authorities have ad­mitted to measuring off the land and promising it to villagers, but said the Horizon Agriculture De­velopment company later in­form­ed them that it, in fact, al­ready owned the land.

“The working group did not know that the land they had measured was disputed,” said Kao Malilen, director of Kratie provincial land management. “And then the company filed the complaint accusing villagers of grabbing their land.”

Mr. Malilen said his working group measured 391 plots of land for 329 families but decided not to issue hard land titles once Ho­rizon Agriculture filed a complaint claiming the land was sold to them in 2009.

Lim Joo-heon, director of Hori­zon Agriculture Development, said that the area was sold to the firm in 2008 and accused many of the villagers of moving onto the land after the sale.

“Villagers have taken illegal possession of our land where we have developed since 2009, insist on their ownership of it and keep our staff from working on maintenance,” Mr. Lim said via email.

He explained his frustration when the student volunteers ar­rived to measure land for the villagers in 2012. “We disagreed with students who came to measure land on our developed area but they kept measuring for villagers and said if we disagree we could submit [a] lawsuit to [the] provincial level,” Mr. Lim said.

Stella Anastasia, a technical ad­visor for local rights group Ad­hoc, said the dispute in Snuol com­mune shared characteristics with other problems caused by Mr. Hun Sen’s land-titling program, also called directive 001.

“It is indicative of some of the problems related to the landtitling scheme as an independent disputes-settlement mechanism related to directive 001 does not exist,” Ms. Anastasia said.

“The entire process was opaque and tainted with irregularities, often biased towards the interests of the wealthy and powerful, and external observers were left out of the process,” she added.

[email protected], [email protected]

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA new weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.