Officials in Kompong Speu province have had to suspend their efforts to grant private land titles over part of a 40-hectare reservoir dating back to the Khmer Rouge in the face of a protest mounted by more than 100 locals afraid of losing their fishing privileges.
Sou Kong, chief of Kong Pisei district’s Prey Kes villages, said on Sunday that the protesters gathered at the reservoir on Friday while Prey Vihear commune chief Duong Soy and his staff were in the process of dividing up about half the area for titles for 20 families.
He said the 20 families have been growing rice on the bed of the reservoir every dry season for years and that the protesters are worried they wouldn’t be allowed to keep fishing that part of the reservoir in the rainy season if those families get titles.
“As far as I know, the 20 families do not have documentation giving them ownership of the lake, but they have been cultivating the land for a long time,” he said.
Seang Khim, one of the protesters, said the 20 families have no right to get titles to the area because the reservoir sits on public land and because they come from another village.
“We will protest again if the commune authorities come to measure the land and issue land titles for those families because our people want to keep the lake for collective use,” he said.
Mr. Soy said it was the second time the protesters have stymied his efforts to measure the reservoir bed for the 20 families since April.
“I am just measuring the land and issuing land titles for those families because they have documents showing they have been here for more than 30 years,” he said.
“I have tried to reach a compromise, and I would not dare to [issue titles] if the 20 families did not have documents.”