Systematic Land Registration Started in Takeo in 2000

I am so glad that I have the chance to return to the province of Takeo. I am so sorry that I had to reschedule my presence to hand out the land titles to our people in Takeo province
as I was very busy. I then asked Deputy Prime Minister HE Sok An to hand out land titles of 403 land parcels to 301 families in the district of Kirivong. Today is Sunday which a holiday for everyone. However, we have no choice as tomorrow will be the day before the coming of New Year and many of our people may plan to travel to various places. I think that I had better finish handing the land titles in 2012.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere thanks to the governor of Takeo for the report in relation to the land titles handing out ceremony today. As is said by HE Srey Ben, the governor, this is not my first time here to do so. The systematic registration of cadastre information index started in Takeo on December 2, 2000, when the first land ownership titles were presented to Mr. An Socheat and Ms. Khieu Sopheap in the village of Sre Tasok, Jumrah Pen commune, Samraong district, Takeo province.

December 2 has been the day that we established the National United Front for Salvation of Kampuchea, the first meeting for political negotiation between Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk and me in search of national reconciliation and political settlement to the conflict. On December 2, 1998, was also the day that we put into practice the triangular strategy, in which the first angle was to achieve internal pacification, the second angle was to integrate Cambodia in the region and internationally, and the third angle was to combine all forces for the socio-economic development and poverty reduction.

With Hun Sen and CPP – No Tax on Farmlands

It is not by chance when we say that measuring and titling land for people is new action implemented along with the existing policy. After the liberation in 1979, we resolved the land issue once. As you know, then, our people ran away from their lands because of war in 1970 and again in 1975. When Pol Pot took power in 1975, all land ownerships were stripped off. We then were stuck at how to go about issuing ownership titles. Should we recognize the land titles from before 1975 or the current ones? It was a big issue.

We also had resolved the land issue for returnees from the camps along the Thai-Cambodian border. We also resolved the land issue when there was this reintegration of the opposition forces, especially the former Democratic Kampuchea, as part of the win-win policy, which we also recognize their ownerships on properties too.

We then come to the stage that we have to conduct systematic registration of cadastre information index, which is completely different to the one we did before. In the past, anyone with piece/s of lands had to keep a receipt (that clarifies the person has filed request for land ownerships) while continuing to claim and manage the land. They will depend on that to pay tax once a year. As far as cultivation-land is concerned, starting from 1979 and up to the present, I have made it clear that whenever Hun Sen is here, the Cambodian People’s Party is here, the farmland tax will not be applied.

There have been suggestions from outside the Cambodian People’s Party that (the Royal Government) should impose tax on land in order to achieve economic growth because there are not many countries that do not impose tax on land. I respond that at this moment, not only they should the Cambodian people or farmers not pay tax for household cultivating land but should also enjoy the assistance by building them necessary infrastructural development too. We need to help them increase income and not to take away from them. If we were to take tax on land, the Royal Government will be able to collect some money, for instance, we take only 50,000 Riel per hectare and we have over forty million hectares. With that amount of money we take from them, which is not much, we impose a burden on their already small income.

It is true that we can collect these taxes and contribute to public constructions such as roads, bridges, etc. That the Royal Government does not tax the land means the ruling party in the Royal Government keeps the money, instead of tax pay, in the people’s pockets. That the Cambodian People’s Party does not have policy to hand out cash directly to people nor impose tax/duty on them means the Royal Government, which is led by the Cambodian People’s Party, already keeps the money for them. In fact, the truth is that the Cambodian People’s Party has been keeping this money for the people 34 years already. I would suggest that our people think harder about some propaganda that (if so and so gets elected) 40,000 Riel would be given to elderly people. That is just a promise. The truth is you already have benefited from infrastructures, schools and tax-free for farmland is the truth. Think about it. Think of Cambodian proverb that goes “do not empty your jars just because of thunders.”

Uprising against taxation in Cambodia is not completely new. You may remember the Cambodians rose against the French resident Bades in a village in Kraing Leav district of Kompong Chhnang, which the French later named the village of Terechan (beast). The main problem was the French imposed too heavy tax on the people in the colonial times. The Cambodians then rose against them and fought against the French. Now in Cambodia, where the Cambodian People’s Party, under the leadership of Samdech Chea Sim, Hun Sen, Samdech Heng Samrin and other leaders, is the ruling party, we uphold the policy of charging no tax on farmlands. We have with us in the coalition government HE Nhek Bun Chhay from the Funcinpec Party who also agreed to this principle, but, if he does not agree, he may have to campaign against it in the forthcoming elections.

Decision for the 14 Million Peoples

The problem of salary increment does not rest on how much you want to give, but whether we have money for that. I do not have the necessity to respond but it is too annoying to listen to their truth-lacking campaign. As far as budget is concerned, let me advise you that there are two kinds – one is the figure on paper and the other is real cash. It does not matter how much you write in the payroll and HE Keat Chhon would just sign it. However, at the national treasury, HE Ngin Khorn responded that there is not any money in the treasury, then the payroll will be just a piece of paper. Please do not trick the people.

To be frank, we just liberate ourselves from this situation in 2004. Prior to that, the Royal Government owed salary to the Royal Government’s staff and armed forces. We were able to overcome the situation in 2004. I may share with you that during the elections of July 26, 2003, we had only two billion Riel in the national treasury department. That was why the opposition parties found it a good chance to prolong the establishment of the Royal Government with an aim to downfall the standby government for cash depletion. I ordered Pen Siman, then head of Cambodian Customs and Excise to improve taxation. We then had surplus of cash and saved up over one billion Riel. We promised to the International Monetary Fund that (1) we do not borrow money from the bank for payroll and (2) we will not print more money.

There is another aspect to the issue. Do we think only about the Royal Government officials or armed forces or the fourteen million Cambodian population. If we do that what can we do for roads, water canals, schools, hospitals and healthcare centers, medicaments, medical tools, etc,. We cannot afford to make officials and armed forces happy while the whole people are in desperate situation. This year we have over one billion Riel as current account surplus. We can increase salary and we already do it 20% a year. In coming days, we will increase another 20% to the Royal Government officials and armed forces. I signed it already. We can also make it 25% increase, but can we go on using this approximate 400 million USD for building roads and water canals?

Make Land and Land Titles Your Gold and Opportunity

Again, since 1979, the Cambodian People’s Party never imposes tax on farmlands and as long as it is in power, it will continue this policy. Even if I am no longer here one day, look at these young volunteer students, maybe someone will take over, I am sure s/he will continue this policy. I encourage you not to impose tax on farmlands, as this will have repercussion on your parents or relatives. Truly, it is not an imagination to proceed with new actions based on existing policy. As I said, the policy is there since 1979. Take the case of Mr. An Socheat and Ms. Khieu Sopheap in the village of Sre Tasok, Jumrah Pen commune, Samraong district, Takeo province into consideration, the land registration and cadastre information index system started twelve years ago on December 2, 2000.

In order to guarantee safety we have to organize land measuring and titling for people in the rural areas first. People in certain areas have their land parcels registered already and some have even guaranteed safety because they have with them feather-imprint land card or a land-title requesting receipt. It is in this reason that I beg our people to maintain and manage their lands. They should not put themselves in situation that they have had to sell them, either because of gambling or any irrational matters.

Land is in fact your gold, your diamond. Whatever you produce on land would turn out to be cash with which you can purchase gold, diamond, motorcycles, etc. We now have all the information needed in the database to keep track of people’s maintenance and management of their lands. We also need to see if the person with information indicated to have land in one place but later appears in another land claiming case. Identification for social land concession will take and compare the information.

Redraw Forest Coverage and Economic Land Concession

I am so grateful for the efforts made by the provincial authorities, precisely speaking, the sub-national authority under the direction of the Ministry of Land Management, Urbanization and Construction and the provincial authority who is the committee in charge of provincial state land, to carry out this work. We have now transferred the power to the provincial authorities according to the sub-decree 118. As far as Takeo province is concerned, here we do not have economic land concession case but land registered as under forest coverage area. Even the place where we are sitting is in fact by the map a forest covering area too. That is the different between the map and the reality. I must sort this out, as I am responsible before the history of our nation.

Look, while registered as forest area, the lands here are in fact rice fields. This is what we have to resolve. In Takeo province, to be cut out from forest coverage area in twelve communes of the districts of Tram Kak and Kirivong, is 11,247 hectares of land in 58 villages for 5,826 families who has yet to legalize their land occupations. You may want to ask similar question that if we take the land back and replant the forest or give them out to the people. As you can see here we are sitting with rice fields, cashew trees, coconut palms, etc. all around us. How could we define it as forest coverage? Let’s measure and title those lands for the people and redraw the map later. We then will have a better figure how much land is under forest, economic land concession, etc. I am demanding though that people do not encroach upon more lands.

From now on, our people have their land titles that can pass from one generation to another. The cost of transferring titles will be free except the stamping charge for any land that costs more than 200 million Riel. Take for instance, the owner needs to cut out and transfer title of one hectare of their lands, if the price is below 200 million Riel, the state will impose no tax. As for stamping charge, we also make it a considerate solution for the poor, as we would charge it only for land that is 100 million Riel and below. If the property costs more, for example 200 million Riel, demander will pay the stamping charge not more than the set 100 million Riel. However, as we have cadastre officials and youth-student volunteers here, you may consider break your land into pieces and give them out to your children now as you will not have to pay anything at all.

LMUPC Recruitment Exam, Issue in Ang Prasat and Ream Andoek

I am grateful for the armed forces, the local authority of all levels for providing safety as well as our people for providing love and regard for our youth-student volunteers and the cadastre officials. The sort of work that we are doing would not be going smoothly if people do not participate. Though initially our people did not have sufficient information tools, the working teams have coordinated and proceeded in an efficient manner. We have achieved about 90% of our target now. We already closed the mission in Kep province and we will soon achieve the same goal in Takeo province. We will have only 18 provinces more on radar.

As far as I know, 33 of the 36 youth-student volunteers here have filed for an exam to get a job in the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction (MLMUPC). I have a message not only for the 33 but also for all 1,603 candidates that the exam will be conducted in a fair manner. Pass or fail will depend on your knowledge. You all are in this mission of land measuring and titling altogether. We have only 600 places for all applicants to compete. There is only one exception for a handicap youth, who have bachelors in accounting and English language and who is now working as a contract staff in the cadastre office in Kep province. We are guaranteeing the application of affiliating 2% of handicap peoples in the state institutions.

There is an issue to resolve since 2007. There was a meeting five years ago if I am not mistaken that Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Lim Kean Hor, Im Chhun Lim and governor Srey Ben have not come up with a solution yet. Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, HE Im Chhun Lim called me and reported to me about this case of land in the district of Kirivong in which 691 families in the communes of Ang Prasat and Ream Andoeuk occupy long time ago since when Gen. Pol Saroeun was governor of Takeo. We have issued them land titles already for 1,807 land parcels. I am declaring from here that we are providing the 691 families in the communes of Ang Prasat and Ream Andoeuk with the land titles./.