Lawmaker Seeks To Query PM on Land Grabbing

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been invited to the National As­sembly to answer questions about rich and powerful individuals who have been grabbing land from the poor and from the state, SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said Thursday.

Anarchic land grabbing by the rich and powerful has “reached levels which raise concern about the government’s capability to solve this problem,” Son Chhay wrote in a letter to Hun Sen released Thurs­day, which he has presented to National Assembly and CPP Hon­orary President Heng Samrin.

Son Chhay said he hopes to ask Hun Sen to name any officials who are being disciplined for grabbing state land in the prime minister’s “war” on land grabbing.

Hun Sen launched his campaign against land grabbers March 5, saying that CPP officials would be targeted in particular for encroaching on state land.

He also warned that, if he did not receive cooperation in his campaign, there would be “bloodshed.”

Since then, three-star General Chao Phirun, the CPP director of the RCAF’s technical and material department, has given 215 hectares of land in Kampot province to the government.

Another RCAF official, Te Haing, a colonel from Banteay Meanchey province, was arrested Saturday for allegedly grabbing state land. His wife Chok Tuok has denied the al­legations against him.

Government officials say other officials have handed back state land, but have declined to name them.

Heng Samrin said he forwarded Son Chhay’s invitation to the prime minister Wednesday, adding that Hun Sen is prepared to come and answer questions as soon as his schedule permits it.

“He never refuses to come,” Heng Samrin said.

“He has already announced that, if he has the time, he will come and answer the questions.”

Heng Samrin added that the government is addressing land grabbing. “We have solved thousands, 10,000 cases,” he said.

Son Chhay said in an interview that he was particularly keen to ask Hun Sen about the Boeng Kak lake area.

On Feb 6, the municipality an­nounced that it had granted a 99-year lease for $79 million to private firm Shukaku Inc to develop 133 hectares of the lake area encompassing Boeng Kak’s thriving backpacker and residential areas.

The deal will affect 4,250 families in Daun Penh district’s Srah Chak commune, according to the lease agreement. Several lakeside residents have said they have been left in the dark as to the details of the agreement and fear they will be kicked out of their homes.

The municipality issued a statement Thursday accusing journalists and others of disseminating false information about the deal that is scaring the community.

“The media and some inconsiderate individuals have instigated untrue information to incite villagers to be scared and annoyed with our authorities,” the statement said.

Unidentified politically-motivated parties have also been falsely claiming that people will be evicted from Boeng Kak to an area on the outskirts of the city, the municipality said.

Thousands of people living in central Phnom Penh were forcibly evicted last year and dumped in squalid relocation sites on the outskirts of the city.

Son Chhay claimed that Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheat­vong informed him March 9 that lakeside residents will be evicted, but not until after April’s commune elections.

Pa Socheatvong said he was too busy to talk to a reporter Thurs­day and his fellow Deputy Govern­or Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment.

Heng Samrin said the municipality will deal fairly with the Boeng Kak lake residents. He added that only people who do not live in the affected area are complaining about the lease.

The municipality will handle the case in a responsible manner, he added.

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