Provincial authorities moved on Wednesday to implement a years-old court verdict awarding hundreds of hectares of land in Kandal province to a little-known company over the complaints of local residents, in a move that a local court official called “bizarre”.
Deputy Provincial Governor Kim Rithy said officials went to Choeung Koeub commune to show residents how the plots will be divided based on a 2014 Supreme Court verdict that awarded the land to a company called Min Yu Cultural Foundation.
Several land disputes have erupted in Kandal Stung district after the government in January announced a massive new airport development in the area, sending land prices skyrocketing.
Rithy, whose father is four-star General Kun Kim, denied widespread rumours that his father has real estate interests in the area, but admitted his mother owns some land in the commune, which she bought a decade ago.
“Frankly speaking, my mother has land near there, but it’s outside the verdict area,” Rithy said. “It has nothing to do with the verdict.”
He said officials took down the names of villagers who contend that their plots overlap with the company’s land.
A Kandal Provincial Court official who requested anonymity said no court officials accompanied the provincial authorities.
“We did not know the land will be measured because the land is in dispute among many people,” he said. “The province took the work from the court in implementing the verdict – this is bizarre and we do not understand.”
“For this case, the head of state has to come out to solve it because it is so complicated,” he added.
Little is known about Min Yu Cultural Foundation other than the owners, who are listed as Christian Huot and Sonn Jung Aye – the son and wife, respectively, of Oknha Huot Vanthan. Two men who picked up phone numbers listed for Min Yu Cultural Foundation denied knowledge of land deals or protests in the area.
Multiple well-connected officials and tycoons have claims in the district.
A separate group of villagers locked in a land dispute with Oknha Seang Chanheng in nearby Prek Sleng commune said they had accepted her company’s offer to compensate them in cash. According to village representative Oeung Sary, residents have received half of promised payments already, and the second half is due before the election.
Chanheng and Kim are relatives by marriage. One of Chanheng’s daughters is married to Kim’s son, and another is allegedly married to a son of Hun San, the elder brother to Prime Minister Hun Sen.