The municipality of Phnom Penh distributed land title vouchers to more than 1,000 families near a resettlement camp Thursday in an attempt to end rising tensions between long-time residents and thousands of people who were relocated to the area.
Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said villagers in Banla Sa’it, Russei Keo district, had been living in the area since 1979. Land disputes arose when the municipality moved more than 3,500 families to the adjacent Anlong Kngan village after they were dislodged from their homes in November when massive fires swept through their former village in Tonle Bassac.
“Villagers in the area asked the government to find a share of the land for them because they had been living there for a long time,” Chea Sophara said. He said the Banla Sa’it villagers were angry because the former Tonle Bassac villagers were granted land in the area, but they still had no proof of land ownership despite living there for many years.
The municipality began distributing thousands of vouchers to the Banla Sa’it villagers good for 7-by-70-meter lots, said an official at a former government-owned research center where the distribution took place.
The municipality gave the Tonle Bassac fire victims 7-by-15 meter plots of land in Anlong Kngan village, the official said.
About 300 Anlong Kngan village families still do not have official authorization from the government to stay in the relocation area, according to one villager.
Sim Ra and her family have lived under a tarpaulin since Dec 4. They still have no land because they arrived at the new site one day late, she said.
Although the government granted the land vouchers Thursday, Banla Sa’it villagers said the municipality has not set a date when the land titles will become official.
“We will get the official land [titles] from the government, but not now,” said Pich Manil, 31, who joined the thousand-plus crowd waiting for the vouchers.
A resident in Banla Sa’it village since 1979, Pich Manil, said he felt no animosity toward the squatters from Tonle Bassac and he was more than willing to “share” the land in the village.