About 40 people from the Daun Ov community, representing some 84 families in Choeung Ek village in Dangkor district, gathered Wednesday at Phnom Penh City Hall to urge authorities to issue long-awaited land titles to the community as a nearby development project moves forward.
An Sok Khim, who has lived in the Daun Ov community for more than 20 years, said residents submitted a titling request in 2020 to the Ministry of Land Management and has yet to be given a response.
“We often come to follow up on this letter because we have submitted a request a long time ago, but there has been no response,” she said. “When I went to see the authorities in the district, he replied that we could live there, but we were not comfortable because in the surrounding area, there had already been land reclamation.”
While the Daun Ov community hasn’t faced land conflict, parts of Choeung Ek commune are facing large scale development with the infilling of lakes and residents are concerned they could eventually be pushed off their land if they lack titles.
“There have never been any land disputes in the past, but because we have lived here for a long time and we do not have a legal land title, as this area is a development project, we are always afraid of being developed on the land where we live,” Sok Khim added.
At Phnom Penh City Hall, authorities arranged a meeting between residents and commune-and district-level officials Wednesday afternoon.
Lim Chhun Eng, a resident from Choeung Ek, said the afternoon meeting resulted in no resolution — frustrating community members who say city officials send them back to local officials everytime they ask for a meeting.
Local officials, she said, told them only that: “if we want to live here, we can continue to live, and they don’t know what to do either. And if we are expelled, we will be compensated.” But she stressed: “I do not want compensation; I wanted to live here.”
“We do not have a title deed yet, and the surrounding area is the land reclamation project. I am worried that my land and house will be affected. We have no land and if they develop, we do not know where to go. I am afraid,” she added.
Am Sam Ath, Operation Director of Licadho, said the ping-ponging between local and city officials has left community members frustrated.
“Because there was no solution from the grassroots, they came up to Phnom Penh City Hall. When there is no response at both the national and sub-national levels, it causes people to lose confidence in the authorities,” he said.
While Article 35 of the Constitution states that institutions must pay attention and solve problems for the people, the lack of resolution for Choeung Ek community members left them in danger of having their homes taken. He noted that given the amount of development in the area, residents were right to be concerned about the status of their land.
Dangkor district governor, Kim Nheb, told CamboJA that the authorities are working to resolve the situation and have been meeting with commune, district, and Phnom Penh-level authorities, though she declined to provide more detail.
Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey could not be reached for comment.