Ministry Demands Evidence of Land Title Fees

The Ministry of Land Manage­ment has asked people in 11 pro­vinces and municipalities to provide written complaints and evidence regarding allegations that officials from the ministry’s land registration project had systematically de­manded households to pay for what should have been free land title documents.

The ministry has issued the call following reports that some staff members had demanded payments of $20 from hundreds of villagers in Kandal and Prey Veng province, an official said Tuesday.

The ministry is also providing a telephone number where people can call in if they have information or evidence of wrongdoing in the issuance of land titles in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kandal, Takeo, Kampot, Kompong Cham, Kompong Thom, Prey Veng, Kom­pong Speu, Battambang, and Siem Reap.

Kan Chan, who answered one of the telephone numbers included in a ministry statement on the kickback allegations, said Tuesday that he hadn’t received a single call yet, though the line had been operational for a few days. He added that he was responsible for recording calls from whistleblowers and sending the information to the Land Management Ministry’s own “complaints resolution committee.”

Nuth Narang, a secretary of state at the ministry, declined to comment on the kickback probe, adding that he was not responsible for land registration. Minister Im Chhun Lim could not be reached for comment.

According to the ministry’s statement, following allegations of bribe demanded from more than 200 families in Svay Rolum commune in Kandal’s Sa’ang district, the complaints resolution committee conducted an investigation.

After interviewing villagers, the committee’s “preliminary result” found that there were no instances where money was demanded from villager. According to the ministry’s statement, the money and gifts given to the ministry’s land registration staff were merely donations from villagers.

“[T]he committee found numerous villagers who had volunteered to support [ministry staff] with resources such as water, fruit, food…. And some other people had contributed approximately 4,000 riel [$1] to 10,000 riel [$2.5] in terms of ‘sentimental money’ for the officials’ efforts in conducting land registration work for them,” the statement reads.

A visit by the same committee on Nov 18 to Prey Veng pro­vince’s Prey Veng district found no evidence to support allegations that 300 villagers were forced to pay money for free land title documents.

“In case villagers feel unhappy over demands of money or any immoral acts…by land registration officials” they can file complaints directly to the ministry, the ministry added.

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