A couple in Phnom Penh’s Dangkao district has filed a lawsuit demanding $1.6 million in compensation from the director of the cadastral office and another couple for allegedly colluding to sell land they have occupied for decades, authorities said.
In 1990, according to a complaint, the state allocated about 0.41 hectares of land in Choeung Ek commune’s Preaek Pranak village to Yat San and his wife Top Chanthol.
It wasn’t until 2012 that the family got a hard title, which only covered about 0.25 hectares. The family continued to live and work on the entirety of the land, including the 0.16 hectares for which they only retained a soft title.
Then a complicated series of land sales began that led to the couple’s allegations. In 2014, Yat San and Top Chantol sold the 0.25 hectares to another couple. That couple owned the parcel for two years before selling it again to another owner in 2016; six months later, it was sold again to another couple, who in 2018 sold it to its most recent owners, Chuon Sovann and his wife Thy Sokunthea.
Throughout that period, San and Chantol — who are both in their 60s — continued to live and farm on the neighboring smaller parcel of land where they have not yet received a hard title, according to the complaint.
But when Sovann and Sokunthea became owners of the 0.25 hectare portion, they colluded with the director of the district land office to obtain a hard title for the entire property — including the 0.16 hectares San and Chantol continued to occupy, the couple alleges in the complaint.
The complaint does not make clear why or how the couple learned of their neighbors’ alleged ownership. San and Chantol could not be reached for comment.
Prak Sokhunsamnang, head of the Dangkao cadastral office named in the complaint, said that he could not comment beyond insisting that he complied with his roles and duties properly. He went on to say that the 0.16 hectares in question was state land and it was therefore impossible for either couple to own it.
“They demanded land that belongs to the state,” he said of Yat San and Top Chantol. “It is part of [the state road] but now they demand it.”
Dangkao district governor Toem Nhib said only that “the experts are investigating this case.”