Video Teaches Resolution of Land Disputes

A family has been living on a piece of public land for more than three years. The land is near a road, and the family runs a small store for travelers.

One day, local authorities tell the family they are on state property and will have to move. The mother becomes angry and defiant. “I have lived here for more than three years—since my daughter was a baby,” she says.

It’s up to a member of the pro­vincial land title committee to resolve the matter.

According to the 2001 land law, the committee member explains, a person must have lived on the land for at least five years, beginning before August 2001, to lay claim to it. And he must have evidence—a certificate from local au­thorities, witnesses, a family book or an electricity bill.

This was the case in a video, “Our Land,” which more than 100 members of provincial land title com­mittees watched Monday, the first day of a course on resolving land title disputes.

The five-day training course at the Ministry of Land Manage­ment, Urbanization and Con­struc­tion aims to show committee members how to investigate land ownership and clear up misunderstandings.

“This training will show [committee members] the way to find conciliation between simple people and gov­ern­ment officials,” Minister Im Chhum Lim told the class.

Most importantly, all committee members need to understand the provisions of the new land law, said Patricia Baars, team leader of the Asian Development Bank’s Land Law Implementation Project.

By the end of the session, participants should be able to explain the difference between state and private property, describe measures to protect public property, and understand the relevant legal framework, Baars said.

An estimated 200,000 poor Cambodians are involved in land disputes with powerful people, such as generals, high-ranking officials and businesses.

Last year’s land law was an attempt to define property rights in a country where land was largely resettled by unofficial means, or claimed by the government, after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Sur­veying and registering official land ownership for the entire country is expected to take decades.


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