Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet has asked Sihanoukville Municipal Governor Say Hak to further investigate a land dispute involving 103 families whose eviction the governor ordered.
Hun Sen’s Deputy Chief of Cabinet Nget Borey said he sent a letter to Say Hak requesting that he revisit the dispute, which centers on 18 hectares of land in Mittapheap district’s commune number 3.
The letter was dated Monday, the same day the families came to Phnom Penh and handed a petition to National Authority for the Resolution of Land Dispute officials asking Hun Sen to block their eviction. The families claim that they have lived on the land since the 1980s.
Officials including Say Hak said that the families are living on state land owned by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Administration.
“We have legal documents to prove that it is state land,” Forestry Administration Deputy Director Chea Samang said Wednesday.
Say Hak said he had ordered his cabinet to take action after receiving the letter Friday morning.
“I already ordered the provincial cabinet to collect all the documents and references to make a report to send to [Hun Sen’s] cabinet to let them understand the true case,” he said.
Say Hak said the report would likely be sent to the prime minister Monday. “We will wait to get a response from top leaders for future action,” he added.
A letter issued July 31 by Sihanoukville City Hall gave the families 15 days to remove their homes from the land. Wednesday marked the end of that period but all of the houses are still there, Say Hak said.
Thong Sokhom, a 61-year-old representative of the families, said he was happy the removal had not occurred but he remained worried. “Today there is no removal, but we do not know about the future—I am still concerned,” he said.
A 2006 letter signed by Agriculture Ministry Secretary of State Teng Lao states that YLP Group, Ltd—principally owned by Mao Malay, the wife of RCAF Commander-in-Chief General Ke Kim Yan—would build a casino resort on the 18 hectares in question.
Mao Malay’s secretary at YLP, Duch Saroeun, said Friday that the company had no involvement with the protests or any land grabbing because they have no claim on the land. YLP sent a proposal to the Council for the Development of Cambodia in 2006 to lease the land for 99 years, he said, but have not yet been granted that lease because of the ongoing land dispute.