Officials in Koh Kong province and a prominent human rights NGO have offered differing reports on the group’s participation in data collection planned for next month to solve decade-long land disputes in the province.
In a letter dated Tuesday, the Koh Kong provincial administration said it requested the presence of Wildlife Alliance, Licadho and Adhoc to monitor the data collection for land identification on August 7 in Kiri Sakor district, where villagers are locked in a land dispute with the United Development Group.
The letter noted that Licadho and Adhoc refused the request.
“In order for the data collection process to be conducted with transparency, the Koh Kong provincial administration wishes to call upon NGOs to work and cooperate with the Ministries of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, Environment and provincial working groups effective August 7 until the data collection process is complete,” the letter said.
Mean Prom Mony, Adhoc coordinator in Koh Kong province, said yesterday that his organisation never received the invitation and would gladly join the data collection process if possible.
“For the August 7 data collection, I will see about it because the government has only measured 130 land plots in the commune. Therefore, I have requested to involve my people,” he said. “Moreover, when the data collection and measurement processes are complete, I would like to ask the authorities to find an agreeable solution to all parties.”
Mr Prom Mony said that it is important for rights group to take part in the process to ensure that residents locked in land disputes get their fair share of land and compensation.
Koh Kong Provincial Hall spokesman Sok Sothy did not address the discrepancy yesterday. “We wanted to work with relevant stakeholders, that’s why we called upon members of the civil society to come and participate in the data collection process,” he said, without elaborating on Adhoc’s participation.
Mr Sothy said that between July 10 and 21, working groups collected data on the disputed land in Prek Khsach commune. According to preliminary figures, 180 families are in need of 378 plots of land, he said.
He noted that working teams put the data collection process on hold pending the election.
Mr Sothy added that the data collection process could take another three to four weeks to complete due to strong weather.