The Cambodian Navy wants 120 hectares of land near the Ream naval base back from a prominent business tycoon, who claims that he legally purchased the land from a military official.
The navy’s property management committee said in a statement dated February 14 that Te Taing Por, a local tycoon and head of a small and medium-sized enterprise advocacy group, had “illegally” obtained land titles for 120 hectares of land in Ream commune, Prey Nob district. The navy alleged Taing Por had conspired to acquire the land, but denied allegations that deputy base commander Ouk Seiha was involved in the sale of the land or that any official was authorized to initiate a sale.
The statement added that Taing Por had filed lawsuits to claim the land and caused issues in the commune by blocking public roads and forcing local officials to falsify documents.
“In this situation and with an act of aggression with malicious intent, the naval base’s property management committee warns those who come to conspire, abuse, buy, sell and steal land titles in this area must stop immediately and hand over the land back to the state or the Ministry of National Defense,” the statement reads.
Taing Por declined to comment on the controversy, but had released his own letter on February 11. In the letter, Por said he had bought 103 hectares of the disputed land in 1997 from then-deputy base commander Nguon Yong, who purportedly received approval from Seiha, who headed the base.
An additional 17 hectares was purchased in 2007, according to the letter, and a land title was registered in the name of Hing Puth Dara, a naval official.
Taing Por says Seiha sued the tycoon over the land in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in the businessman’s favor.
Mey Dina, who heads the Navy’s property management committee, said he would raise the issue with his superiors. Dina acknowledged the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Taing Por, but alleged that the tycoon had paid for the verdict.
“He has money. He uses money to buy all their hearts. And this is very unfair to us, so we will continue this with the top leadership,” Dina said.
Van Sophat, a rights officer with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said irregularities with land titling procedures usually affected poorer people losing their land to the powerful.
He added that a decision by the Supreme Court was final and an aggrieved party could normally only approach the Constitutional Council or Supreme Council of Magistracy for an interpretation of the law.