11/25/2022, 16.09
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Too many land disputes in Preah Sihanouk, says Cambodian environment minister

More than 2,000 outstanding disputes remain in the southern province. Last month more than 300 people protested in front of the Sihanoukville Court of Appeal demanding a speedy resolution of the matter. The problem dates back to the early 1990s when residents saw their land seized to benefit Chinese investment.


Sihanoukville (AsiaNews) – Cambodia's Environment Minister, Say Samal, said that if Preah Sihanouk province wants to become an economic model, it must first settle decades-old land disputes.

Today Samal met with the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Dith Tina, to discuss the issue.

Since early 2020, the provincial administration has registered 2,290 land disputes; of these, 1,587 have been addressed, while the rest are still under examination.

Preah Sihanouk, a costal province in southern Cambodia, has undergone rapid development since Sihanoukville became its provincial capital in 1955.

In recent years, pristine beaches and Western tourists have given way to Chinese investors and huge skyscrapers, often dens of illegal activities related to online scams.

Residents have had to pay a hefty price for such development, dispossessed of their land as early as 1996 by the province's deputy governor, Khim Bo, who sold the land to the Thai Bun Rong Company, which then divided it into plots and sold the latter to other companies.

In most cases, residents do not know who now owns their land. But in the late 1990s and early 2000s, activists clashed with police to no avail.

Local families say they moved into the area after the fall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979. The latter had forcibly transferred thousands of Cambodians from one end of the country to the other during its four years in power (1975-1979).

As indicated by the data collected by the provincial administration, even today the issue remains unresolved.

Last month, more than 300 people gathered before the Sihanoukville Court of Appeals to demand that the government speed up dispute resolution.

At present, many residents are forced to live in shacks and caravans along the road and only a few families, mostly engaged in farming in the past, have received some compensation.

Local authorities have repeatedly tried to bully residents into cooperating if they want to receive compensation of about US$ 4,000.

However, that amount of money will not allow them to buy land in the same region because, since Chinese investments arrived, the value of real estate has skyrocketed.

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