Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Phnom Penh Villagers Protests Overlapping Land Title With Tycoon Khun Sea’s Company

About 40 villagers gathered in front of the City Hall to ask for an intervention on the overlapping land title with Eco Megapolis Development Cooperation Co Ltd, April 10, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)
About 40 villagers gathered in front of the City Hall to ask for an intervention on the overlapping land title with Eco Megapolis Development Cooperation Co Ltd, April 10, 2024. (CamboJA/Pring Samrang)

About 50 families in Phnom Penh protested in front of the Phnom Penh City Hall after coming to know about the issuance of land titles to Eco Megapolis Development Cooperation Co Ltd which overlapped their land. The villagers, around 40 of them from Prek Kampoes commune in Dangkor district, feared being evicted from their present land following the new development on the title.

The company, which is registered with the Ministry of Commerce, showed tycoon Khun Sea as one of its directors.

According to documents obtained by CamboJA News, Lim Lina, another director of the company had filed a complaint to stop the issuance of 51 land titles, stating that the land, measuring 20,721 square meters, was already registered by the company in 2015.

However, the villagers mentioned that they started the process to apply for land management and administration projects (LMAP) or hard titles, as they are commonly known, with the commune-level working group for land registration in August 2022.

Sorm Seila who spoke to reporters after meeting with Phnom Penh city officials on Thursday  said there is no resolution yet. “But the City Hall said they will speed things up after Khmer New Year,” the 36-year-old said.

He recalled being shocked when he went to collect his land title in January this year and was instead told that a company had filed a complaint to stop the land title issuance.

“I want them [authorities] to speed up the issuance of our land titles so that I can own the right to sell or use it [as collateral] to borrow from the bank.

“Presently, the bank can’t accept our soft titles as they’re awaiting a resolution [on the land] and we can’t do anything on that land,” Seila said.

In 2019, he bought a piece of land in Damnak Sangke village, measuring five-by-20 meters, which was “recognized by commune and district officials”.

“I am very worried that while [our land] is recognized by authorities, we cannot use it, and it will be taken away [in future]” he said.

Another villager Sri Chantha, 35, said she was afraid she would not be able to live on her land, which she purchased in 2016 and built her house in 2019.

“The land is my life. If they take away my land, they will take my life.

“They [company] now have other land titles overlapping our land, although I have been living here for five years. I am not illegally occupying [the land]. I bought it legally,” Chantha said.

Lim Lina, one of the four directors of Eco Megapolis, declined to comment, referring questions to her working group representative Chiv Kok Say, who handles land acquisition issues for the company.

Kok Say said the Eco Megapolis possesses land titles for two plots of land, measuring approximately three hectares.

“We are resolving [this] by checking with the person who took the land and sold [to the villagers] […] what documents did they have to show as proof?

“We have complained to prevent [the issuance of land title] on our land as it belongs to the company,” Kok Say said.

Prek Kampoes commune chief Korn Soken said the land dispute is not under his control, thus he cannot resolve the issue, adding that he would let the “top level” settle the matter.

“I am not clear about the land title […] This issue is very complicated. They may reach a resolution at the top level but we are at a lower level, so we don’t know,” he mentioned. However, he said the villagers had started applying for land titles in 2022.

NGO rights group Adhoc president Ny Sokha called on the relevant authorities to review the irregularity of land registration that led to a dispute between the company and villagers.

“The authorities who authorized the land title issuance were negligent because when a land title has been published, we can’t issue another one to overlap on the same land. 

“If the land belonged to the company in [2015] why are they still registering land titles for villagers,” Sokha said.

Phnom Penh Municipal deputy governor Sok Penhvuth, who met with the villagers, declined to comment.

Developer Khun Sea and Seng Loth, Land Management Ministry spokesperson could not be reached for comment.