Chbar Ampov residents are complaining about real estate developer Borey Peng Huoth filling in their farmland, an area they say was previously in dispute with the late Suy Sophan’s Phanimex company.
More than 200 families submitted a complaint to the Land Management Ministry on Monday alleging that Borey Peng Huoth was filling 58 hectares of land in the district’s Prek Thmey commune. The complaint states that residents were previously battling Phanimex over the disputed land.
Leng Sari, a representative for the 241 families, said Borey Peng Huoth — which develops gated housing communities called borey — started filling in part of the disputed wetlands on September 6 and residents were told the company had hard titles for the land.
He said people had been growing corn and soybeans in the area during the dry season since the 1980s. Now, sand was being piped into the area and filling it up for housing developments.
Borey Peng Huoth is behind the Star Platinum luxury housing development nearby, which includes a “European”-themed park with replicas of Big Ben and the Sydney Opera House.
Sari said the land was in dispute since 2008 with Sophan’s Phanimex and he claimed the community had won a legal battle over claim to the land. However, the dispute resurfaced after the area — formerly in Kandal province — was transferred into the jurisdiction of Phnom Penh, and Phanimex again claimed rights to the land in 2016.
Sari said requests to mark out the land for community members were rejected by Phanimex. He also provided a Council of Ministers directive from 2017 that said land titles should not be issued in the area.
“They just conspired with each other. They just abused it. This is my opinion, because it is being resolved at the ministry and I also filed a preventative complaint with City Hall land authorities … and suddenly it came to this,” Sari said.
“It is very unjust to the people for it to turn out like this. People do not accept it. We just keep trying, never giving up on the land.”
Prek Thmey commune chief Liv Vantheng said people who were claiming ownership of the disputed land did not have any titles or deeds and that most of them are from outside the village and had come in to buy cleared parts of the land.
Borey Peng Huoth bought the land from Phanimex two years ago using two of Sophan’s representatives Yi Yet and Seng Samnang, Vantheng said, and had sale deeds and commune-level land documents.
“If the people do not agree, it is their business. They should have documents to refer to for what they do not agree with,” the commune chief said.
“Because from the beginning, everyone knows that this land belonged to Phanimex, which is the owner and had bought it by using its representatives.”
Sao Eam, the Ministry of Land Management’s inspectorate director, who is involved in resolving the dispute, said he didn’t have details of any resolution in the case and was mostly in charge of taking minutes.
“In some cases, I am really involved and sometimes I was a notetaker, but with the final reports I do not know what is the decision,” he said.
Sarin Vanna, who heads Phnom Penh’s land management department, declined to comment on the dispute and referred questions to the ministry. Land management ministry spokesperson Seng Lot said he was unaware of the dispute.
VOD could not reach Heang Bun Peng and Thai Chea Huoth, who own Borey Peng Huoth, for comment on Monday.