Some 84 families of Khmer Rouge veterans are preparing to march through Phnom Penh to deliver petitions calling for land titles to be granted for their farms.
The villagers, from Smach Meanchey commune in Koh Kong province, were promised the titles to the 150 hectares in question in 2007 when they agreed to relocate from Pursat province, they say.
Svay Tob, a representative of the group, said: “Previously, I lived in the Thmor Da region in Pursat province. Later the Koh Kong provincial authorities called on us to move to Koh Kong. They brought us here and allocated land, homes an orchards.”
However, Tob said that a conflict had ensued after the environmental group Wild Aid had prevented them from farming in the area due to increased deforestation.
The dispute was seemingly resolved when the government dispatched students to demarcate their land. But until now they have not received land titles, despite being allegedly charged by the local authorities for the service.
Previous complaints filed to the Forestry Administration and Agriculture Ministry had come to no avail, Tob added
Ros Vyravuth, Koh Kong’s land management director, denied that officials under his watch had extorted money from villagers in exchange for land titles.
District Governor Pen Vanna and his deputy, Sun Dara, could not be reached for comment.
In Kongchet, provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said the veterans’ case was one of nine unresolved disputes in the area, warning that the government could face growing unrest if their concerns were not addressed.
“When the government lets cases drag on for too long without paying attention to finding solutions and ending the disputes, the communities affected by land abuses form networks and stage advocacy together,” he said.