Minister of National Defence Tea Banh has urged the Koh Kong Provincial Administration to speed up the resolution of land disputes for the affected families and to prevent the problem from becoming more complicated.
Tea Banh said at a meeting on March 19 that the tasks of managing natural resources, forests and resolving land disputes concerned the roles and responsibilities of several ministries and institutions in formulating policies, legal frameworks, guidelines and measures as well as for providing support for implementation and monitoring of performance to ensure the effectiveness of these tasks.
He said local officials must cooperate in order to speed up the process while also managing all of the statistical data, identifying the people and the land on which they have occupied and relied on for many years within natural protected areas in an accurate, clear and transparent manner before asking permission from the government to allocate land and grant ownership to them.
“As chairman of the State Land Management Commission at the provincial level, I can tell you that we have to cooperate with other ministries and institutions when setting up boundary posts and registering state land in order to stop illegal encroachment on land in natural protected areas,” he said.
“And we have to speed up the resolution of land disputes as soon as possible to avoid them becoming widespread, complicated and difficult to sort out.”
Tea Banh also urged the provincial administration to increase monitoring of encroachment on people’s land in natural protected areas to prevent the tendency to illegally encroach on state land as well.
He said the provincial administrations must be strict and instruct their village and commune authorities to never sign documents illegitimately.
Tea Banh said they should also work to make sure that everyone understands the forestry and fisheries laws and the laws on protected areas so that they can join in the protection of forests and natural resources.
Thong Chan Dara, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the sentiments but said the practical implementation by the government still was not active enough and land disputes and protests continued to take place.
“Disputes have not diminished despite this guidance from the national level. At the same time, the encroachment on state land has increased a lot in the province because it is being done by people with connections and the wealthy. The authorities just turn a blind eye to it,” he said.
Provincial governor Mithona Phuthong acknowledged that land disputes had occurred in the province and the issuance of proper titles to people had not yet been addressed fully.
“The provincial administration is committed to addressing these issues together and committed to elevating the spirit of responsibility to better perform our duties,” she said.