Phnom Penh officials met with representatives from the Beoung Kak lake area on Thursday, the first move toward dispensing land to some 800 families who had refused to make way for a massive development project.
The city will provide around 12 hectares of land to the families to build houses, but they must build them to code and pay property taxes, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said.
The titling came at the order of Prime Minister Hun Sen, following a threat by the World Bank that it would suspend funding if the impasse between villagers, the city and the developer were not resolved.
“I will have a commission to make the land titles for you on Monday,” Kep Chuktema said. “I would like you all to be prepared to cooperate, because we have measured [the land],” he said. “This is the official property.”
Tep Vanny, a community representative, said the city will issue the land titles, but discussions will have to continue about the construction of homes.
“The land titles are very important for Boeung Kak residents, as well as all the people throughout Cambodia facing eviction,” she said. “When we have land titles for our children and grandchildren, forever, we have safety of land and home.”
Vong Sokheng, a 44-year-old resident of one community near the filled-in lake, said the land titles will prevent the types of protests that led to violent clashes with authorities.
“Our people are very happy and are prepared to cooperate with the authorities to make the land titles,” she said.
Um Sokhon, a 60-year-old woman from the area, said she had waited “a long time” for a title, which she said will now give her some comfort. “In the past, I lived in fear of confiscation,” she said.
However, even after Monday’s meeting, some residents, like Daung Kea, 43, remained wary.
“I’m happy mixed with sad,” Daung Kea said. “When we clearly see the land titles in our hands, we’ll be satisfied.”