Student Volunteers to Be Retired From Gov’t Land Title Program

The Ministry of Land Management on Thursday announced that the government has handed out 610,000 new land titles since Prime Minister Hun Sen announced the start of a concerted titling push in June 2012, but said the student volunteers who have been one of the hallmarks of the program would be retired.

At the end of a two-day event on land issues organized by the NGO Star Kampuchea, Sor Sovan, a secretary of state at the ministry, said the new titles were issued to some 400,000 families and covered 1.2 million hectares across 20 provinces.

“We have solved people’s problems and we have seen land disputes decrease sharply,” he told an audience of more than 200 students and villagers from around the country.

The Khmer Rouge put an end to private property in the 1970s, leaving millions of Cambodians without titles to their land. That legacy spurred a raft of land disputes as the government set about leasing vast tracts to private firms and their mostly farming or mining operations.

Mr. Hun Sen announced his titling program in 2012 in a bid to help solve some of those disputes and recruited hundreds of university students to do much of the necessary measurement.

Though the latest figures meet the 1.2-million-hectare goal the prime minister originally set, it falls short of a later, revised goal of 1.8 million hectares.

Despite having some 600,000 hectares to go, Mr. Sovan said Thursday that the government would no longer rely on volunteers.

“We plan to measure 2 million more hectares next year and we will not use student volunteers for the program because we have enough expert officials to do it,” he said.

The program has come under heavy criticism from rights groups, which accuse the government of refusing to let an independent body monitor its implementation. The groups also say the scheme has done little to stem disputes, as it has deliberately avoided most of the areas where poor farmers are in conflict with private companies.

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