Bodyguard Unit, Businesswoman, 22 Families Latest State Land Recipients

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A view of Bit Traing commune in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nob district on July 23, 2020, in a photograph posted to the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration’s Facebook page.

The government has allocated three plots totaling nearly 100 hectares in Kampot, Kandal and Preah Sihanouk provinces separately to the prime ministerial bodyguard unit, a businesswoman and 22 families, according to sub-decrees released this week.

The latest land grants come amid widespread privatization of state land and protected areas across the country, including lakes in Phnom Penh and Kandal, coastal land to connected families, and 127,000 hectares of Koh Kong parks. Some of it follows Prime Minister Hun Sen’s directive last year to give land titles to poor families residing on state property, though skepticism persists around who will benefit in the end.

“We don’t know yet for which families we’re cutting the land,” said Chhouk Phor, Koh Touch commune chief in Kampot province’s Bokor city, where 58 hectares have been granted to 22 families. “It isn’t all for people living there. There are people from far away.”

A July 9 sub-decree, signed by Hun Sen and released publicly this week, says the land will be reclassified from the Bokor National Park.

“People have requested it in the past, and how to cut it we don’t know yet,” Phor said.

A second document, dated July 5, grants 11 hectares to the prime minister’s Bodyguard Unit in Prek Raka commune in Kandal’s Kandal Stung district.

The unit’s chief, Hing Bun Heang, said the location would be used for training and housing equipment.

“It’ll be kept as the Ministry of Defense’s property under the control of the bodyguard unit. This location is for training and keeping cars and equipment. Ten hectares is a little small,” Bun Heang said.

The third document, dated June 30, allocates 4 hectares of forestry land in Bit Traing commune, in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nob district, to businesswoman Lao Annie.

Lao said on Thursday that she was currently in quarantine and would be willing to talk about her plans in person in the coming days.

Bit Traing commune chief Meach Chan said Lao’s lawyer had told him she bought the land from local residents a long time ago and was requesting a land title.

Much of the land in the area did not yet have titles “so there are endless issues,” Chan said. “In short, there have been lots of disputes in the area. In my area, people go to encroach on land and disorderly claim the land.”

Additional reporting by Michael Dickison

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