The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration will not certify land titles for more than 300 families in the communes of Koh Rong and Koh Rong Sanloem and warned of legal action without exception against people interfering with state-owned property.
According to a notice issued by the administration dated January 29, the Administrative Committee had decided not to issue land titles for 584 plots because applicants either had no permanent address in the area, lacked valid location data or claimed lands which had been allocated for an airport project.
“The committee will not provide land titles based on documents certifying land title numbers, letters of land ownership transfer, land use applications, purchase and sale contracts stamped by commune authorities or lawyers, or land location markings and other such documents issued by the commune land registration office, including the 584 land titles, because these documents have no legal value for use or claim of land ownership on Koh Rong Island,” the notice said.
The Post was unable to contact any residents of the communes for comment.
You Veasna, representative of community members with land disputes in Preah Sihanouk province, said people on Koh Rong did not occupy much land – most families had only a half or single hectare.
The provincial administration stated that it did not recognise any means or documentation of ownership transfers concerning the 584 plots or other illegally occupied lands. Only lands registered and issued real estate certificates by the provincial land management department were legally valid.
Provincial hall spokesman Kheang Phearom said more than 300 families currently live on the sites of the 584 plots. The administration would take legal action against them as stipulated in Article 295 of the Land Law and Article 81 of the Law on State Property Control, Use and Management.
The notice stated that the locations in the communes are on islands belonging to the state, and the government had decided to transfer these public lands to private holdings according to sub-decree No 5 from January 21, 2008, for development with specific investment conditions.
Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said all decisions by provincial authorities should be made in coordination with local residents to avoid disputes when land sought for use by developers is already occupied.
“When the land is properly inspected and measured, then land title codes may be issued, and this can resolve disputes. When data are posted prematurely, it can lead to confusion and protests,” he said.