Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district authorities issued an eviction notice last week ordering more than 30 families to vacate their plots of land by May 26, so that the it can be given to Lao Tong Ngy, a man who claims to own their land, officials and local residents said yesterday.
According to the eviction notice, signed by Russei Keo district governor Klaing Huot, the families are described as living “in temporary houses” on land that is owned by Mr Tong Ngy in Tuol Sangke commune.
“The houses you are living on are the result of land grabbing and anarchistic house construction…on land belonging to another owner,” the notice states. “District authorities need all who are living in this area to move from Lao Tong Ngy’s land within a 14-day period from the signing” of the notice, which was signed May 12. Anyone who opposes the eviction would be brought to court, it added.
Residents interviewed yesterday denied that they had illegally occupied the land and pointed to municipal documents issued to them, indicating they had lived in the area since as far back as the early 1990s.
Resident Seng Sna said he had lived in the area since 1992 and had never heard of or seen the alleged land owner, Mr Tong Ngy. Only last year were the residents, for the first time, informed that someone was claiming to own the land and that they would have to move.
If Mr Tong Ngy has land ownership documents from the municipality this would only indicate that authorities had colluded with the supposed landowner to help fabricate his claims to the land, Mr Sna said.
“We would move and just ask for a small plot of land [in return] if the state wanted the land for development, but in fact the land is claimed by rich people,” he added.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, said that all households facing eviction had been given election cards, family books and utilities paperwork issued by Kilometer 6 commune officials dating back to the 1993 elections.
According the 2001 Land Law, residents have legal claim to their land if they have these types of local government documents which indicate they lived on the land five years before the Land Law came into effect.
“Authorities must re-study the history of this land because residents lived there for a long time,” Mr Sam Ath said.