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Land Dispute a Litmus Test for Ruling Party Ahead of Vote


Protesters took to the street on World Habitat Day to express their dissatisfaction over land dispute issues, Monday, October 10, 2016, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The Phan Imex Development Company has been accused of taking over a public road, villager’s land and natural lakes.

Cambodia’s government has given the green light to resolve a land dispute between villagers and Suy Sophan, the owner of the Phan Imex Construction Company.

According to a letter issued by the Council of Ministers on February 2, 554 families filed complaints against Sophan over disputed land in Chbar Ampov district in Phnom Penh and Ponhea Leu district in Kandal province.

A spokesman of the Ministry of Land Management, Seng Loth, said on Friday that the ministry would start to work on the problem by inviting conflicting parties to bring their related documents to be reviewed.

“Both parties need to participate in this process because they need to protect what they have. They need to have the legal titles. We will together check the actual land and legal documents to see what is right and wrong.”

The Phan Imex Development Company has been accused of taking over a public road, villager’s land and natural lakes.

Villagers also accuse the company of conspiring with government officials to issue forged land titles.

The evicted villagers have protested and marched on government buildings to find a solution.

Sophan, a powerful businesswoman who is close to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, could not be reached for comment.

Opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, chairman of the National Assembly’s human rights commission, said he supported the action by the ministry.

“We all know land conflicts happen again and again and mostly between rich and powerful figures and villagers. As the ministry has taken action, I congratulate it.”

Sia Phearum, director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said resolving the land dispute is a test for the ruling party as the commune election is approaching.

“The commune elections in June 2017 are getting closer. I the land conflicts still cannot be solved, the ... ruling party will be affected, the citizens will no longer trust the government,” he said.

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