Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, it is a great honor and pleasure for me to join you all, in opening the Conference of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction to take stock of performance in 2005 and set future direction for 2006. 2005 is the first year in implementing the Royal Government’s Rectangular Strategy and also to have a mid-term review of performance.
I think the gathering at this conference is a good opportunity for participants to discuss and draw on good experiences and lessons learned from the past implementation and to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as to come up with an action plan and new measures to ensure dynamic progress in land management, urban planning and construction works.
Indeed, many issues that will be tabled in this conference not only directly link to the living standards of our people, but also related to ministries/institutions and economic development in general. Thus, I would like to warmly welcome Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen that have come from all concerned ministries/institutions and provinces/cities to participate at this conference. At the same time I would like to thank Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the representatives from embassies, international organizations who are present here and for your effective partnership and support both in terms of technical and finance assistance to the Ministry of Land, Urban Planning and Construction, and in particular in land management activities.
If we look back by comparing 7 years ago to the present, we can see that the decision of the Royal Government to establish the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction was correct in foreseeing country progress. From the starting point of its mission, I have noted that the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction has made utmost efforts to implement the government policy with accountability and appropriateness. Even though there have been some weaknesses in the past operation due to some eventual and subjective factors, the ministry still makes notable progress from year to year.
I take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate and express deep appreciation to H.E. Senior Minister Im Chhun Lim and all managements and civil servants of the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, the Land Policy Council and good cooperation from all related ministries and institutions.
We can see that the improvement in land management, land ownership and land use are essential factors to ensure economic growth, poverty reduction, environmental protection and sustainable management of natural resources. In this sense, the Rectangular Strategy of the Royal Government clearly state that reform in land management/used is one of the key elements to promote agricultural sector and enhance living standards in rural areas.
In our commitment to attain this objective, the Royal Government has in particular focused on strengthening a secured land ownership by active registration of land ownership and made efforts to add more policy and legal frameworks in order to have sufficient base to continue strengthening the management of state land and the rationalization of economic land concession, including improvement in land use potential. As a result, even though there is still much to do in area of land management, there are already many strategic achievements and the Royal Government has identified appropriate road map through adopted policy and legal frameworks.
In fact, there are small and big issues occurring. All those problems, require us to resolve it immediately such as forest encroachment, inhabitant deforested areas, double ownership of land, providing land for those families without or lack of it, tax evasion on land which is transferred from one to another.
In order to resolve all these issues, the government has introduced key legal measures such as: sub-decree on “systematic land registration”, sub-decree on “sporadic land registration”, sub-decree on cadastral committee, sub-decree on “social land concession”, sub-decree on “management of state land”, sub-decree on “economic land concession”, sub-decree on “legal procedure on establishing the level and registration of permanent forestry assets” and so on. In all those sub-decrees, the government has given appropriate power to the provincial and municipal authorities consistent with the decentralization and de-concentration policies. Thus, main matter that facing us is that all relevant ministries/departments have to prepare regulations/guidelines to implement all those sub-decrees and designate responsibilities to subordinates to fulfill their technical duties. All those adopted sub-decrees are balanced and comprehensive in resolving different issues. In this regard, all concerned entities must exert efforts to firmly implement in order to avoid negative past experiences. Furthermore, I would like to raise some recommendations for discussion at this conference and also for Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the Land Policy Council to provide with the options for the government on the following issues:
I. Availability of Land to Implement Social Land Concession Programme.
Aiming at providing land for poor landless families and those with lack of land to build houses or for family farming, the Royal Government has implemented the social land concession policy. However, up to now the issues of availability of land to implement this programme is still the main challenge. In order to overcome this matter, the government has prepared key legal basses as mentioned above. At the same time under the instruction of Land Policy Council, National Social Land Concession Committee together with the Working Group of Land Allocation Programme for Socio and Economic Development where the World Bank together with GTZ have prepared 3 detailed guidelines to implement on pilot basis in the Memot District, Kampong Cham province, these are: “The Guidelines on Land Selection”, “The Guidelines on Targeted Land Recipients” and “The Guidelines on Integration of Qualification for Land Development” in order to transform allocated land to produce fruitful outcome for each family to improve the living standard above the poverty line. I think that it is a start-up at the place where the land is fertile, which should be properly implemented as an experiment for the other areas.
At the same time, I used to lay out solution on the shortage of land due to population pressure through intensification by using the same size of land but getting multiple yields to be able to feed the increasing family members and to look for new land for both resident and family farming.
I would like the conference to thoroughly discuss the issues based on the real situation of land in each city-province on the possibility of getting new land to implement social land concession in each city-province as follow:
1st– Encroached land with partial business activities. In such case, land holder must declare by him or herself about the land in which he or she claims to posses. Certainly, judgment on each case should follow the principle of discouraging legal offender, absolutely protecting state land, favoring the poor and providing clear property rights in order to secure ownership, to utilize the land to its potential and to turn into the real agricultural land to contribute to economic development. Moreover, strengthening state land management or regulating state land is under competency of municipal/provincial land committee. In this regard, the decision in each area at the city or provincial level, if there is no objection from national level the land must be registered and mapped. From now on, it is the responsibility of local authority and community to protect the boundary of land and forest in cooperation with related authorities.
There is only one legal criterion to have legal possession on land, which is the private possession of state land before the new Land Law was promulgated The land can be provided with legal deed after five years possession as stated in the article 38 of Land Law that stipulated of actual possession, without violence, public acknowledgment, continuity and honesty. The problem of the poor, who illegally encroach the land, can be solved by several means for example the rental scheme by retaining state ownership. For the other types of encroachments including encroaching for planting and possessing the ideal land, Land Policy Council will study and offer options to the Royal Government based on the advice from this conference. Beside this, the Royal Government already appealed to illegal possessors of state land to voluntarily return those lands back to the state in order to propel land social concession program for landlessness or lack of land family.
To halt land encroachment, we should stop issuing certification on the encroached land, for example, certification of exchange land from one hand to another which is the factor that encourages encroachment.
2nd– Old economic land concession that is not under production is the land under economic concession provision that has not been under production. The judgment on this case must be done according to the sub-degree on economic land concession that clearly stipulated on all procedures.
3rd– Deforested land is land from deforested coverage. This case should be encouraged to invest on reforestation within the framework of economic land concession scheme. However, it should be based on reality since some lands can be potentially converted into agricultural land and residence.
4th– Private ownership of state land is idle state land that has good quality to assure living standard and agricultural production.
On the other hand, in order to implement social land concession program, I would like to recall the sub-decree on state land management that have been circulated do not need another sub-degree to appoint officials since the sub-degree clearly specifies officials and positions. Therefore, governors of provinces and municipalities who are the chairmen of State Land Committees prepare to enforce the sub-decree while waiting for guidelines from the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction on the identification of idle state land aiming at serving the social land concession. For example, I saw lot of idle land between Battambang and Pursat provinces that both provinces can identify. Once having a clear identification, municipalities and provinces can appeal for development partners and set development direction in its region which is the integration of land use and distribution planning into communal development plan. At the same time, participation from local community and authority to maintain land that set for distribution under social concession should also be encouraged. In this sense, I would emphasize that “once get the land, we have to protect that land”.
II. Roles and Responsibilities of Sangkat/Commune in Land Issues
1st– I would like to reemphasize that possession of land is finished after Land Law was in effect on 30 August 2001. Therefore, heads of sangkats/communes must prevent all kinds of encroachment and possessing land without permission within its responsibilities coverage. The heads of sangkats/communes should immediately report to heads of khans/districts to seek solution if it is out of his/her control.
In the past, there are a lot of problems because the local authority irresponsibly certifies land possession without the clear identification of land size and local land owner. The registered land that changes ownership and owner got certification from the local authority without reporting to khan/district land office and did not continue to do another registration. Moreover, the certification of asset related to real estates within sangkat/commune or khan/district has never been exchanged between the two. This is an administrative loop-hole that might bring about difficulty in land management, tax collection and land conflict.
2nd– I would like two ministries, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, continue to discuss on the measures to close the loop-hole. Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction must cooperate with Ministry of Interior to train, build capacities and supply material to sangkat/commune administration on their role and responsibilities in land registration for example how to do the land use map in sangkat/commune to determine the private land, state land and appropriate land for social land concession program or economic land concession in order to build base for sangkat/commune development in line with law on Sangkat/Commune Administrative Management.
3rd– Ministry of Land, Urban Planning and Construction must convene an expert meeting to draw out lessons and experiences as well as strengthening sporadic land registration. In addition, technical staffs need to introduce innovative methodology in sporadic land registration in order to strengthen quality of work.
III. Land Conflicts
In this case, we all have in our heads that the history of land ownership of our country has got complexity and evolved in many distinctive steps. Actually, in some regions, land was taken into possession while peace was yet fully gained and passed through changing environment of either war or peace. Now we are in free market environment at the time that majority of land is not registered. This leads to the conflict. Facing this situation, the Royal Government has hastily promoted land registration with cooperation from key development partners, for example, the World Bank, Germany, Finland, Canada and etc. Currently, we can get 20 thousand plots land registered within a month with clear procedure and participation for people. The time of judgment process from public announcement to conflict resolution takes on average 4-5 months to justify each plot of land. Therefore, to address the land issue, land registration must continue according to the goal set in the Millennium Development, which is 30% of land by 2010 and 65% by 2015. I observed that systematic land registration in the whole commune is a good strategy to make clear on land possession status in the commune by citizen themselves. The conflicted land is the one which has no clear owner, fence, production activity and clear border. Presently, the Royal Government has ability to promote state land registration to ensure security of private land ownership bordering with state land.
At the same time, the Royal Government of Cambodia establishes a new mechanism which is Cadastral Committee to resolve unregistered conflicted land. Since it assumed its task in 2003, such mechanism contributes a lot to helping the court and closing 955 conflicted cases that are related to 5,017 households and 1,423 hectares. However, even the committee received favorable outcome, the committee still have a lot of cases to resolve. Therefore to speed up this mechanism, the Royal Government decided to appoint municipal/provincial governors as the chairmen of the municipal/communal land committees and in the mean time, try to resolve all remain conflicts and to find preventive measures against new conflicts. Another important measure is to pay attention on law education such Land Law and Forest Law. On the other hand, I would like you to consider including sangkat/commune in resolving small conflicts to avoid from totally depending on the committee and not paying enough attention on small conflicts in their areas.
Meanwhile, I would like you to put into consideration on the amendment of sub-decree on Cadastral Committee to include chiefs of khan-districts to be the chairs of khan/Distric Cadastral Committees.
IV. Issues on Land, Urban Planning and Construction
On land issues: the past work focused on developing land use planning for priority areas including city-towns, investment areas, tourism sites, and road-side areas. The work also facilitates land use planning with natural resources management particularly costal development zone and conservation zones complying with policies of the Royal Government. In addition, the implementation of decentralization policies, the work on land use planning at sangkat/commune level gain a lot of progresses. In the forth coming, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and Ministry of Interior have to work together to prepare legal rules and procedures on participatory land use planning which is a necessary procedure to enable local level to prepare land use planning that is suitable for them in order to serve Land Concession program and sangkat/commune development.
On construction: in the past few years, the modernization of city and construction sharply go up. For the year 2005, the investment in construction reaches 1,600 million US dollars including both big construction approved by national level and construction approved by provincial/municipal level. It is something that we can be proud off, and at the same time, we need further attention since a lot of constructions being built without proper licenses. The challenge is to ensure safety, architectural plan and legal construction. Therefore, the present challenge is to strengthen technical knowledge in construction and management construction businesses, promote laws and regulations awareness, and improve public services to be ease and timely.
It is clear that the work requires the cooperation and joint determination among related ministries and institutions particularly between Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and the local authority.
On public services: I would like to recall that in context to facilitate the investment climate, the price and completion time of the public services must be determined and they should be in response to fours principles of public services: quality, transparency, timely and appropriate price. I realized that Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning, and Construction and Ministry of Economy and Finance issued an inter-ministerial declaration on the price of land registration and construction services. Moreover, Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction and Ministry of Interior agreed on the duration to approve the construction license. Therefore, the rules and regulations should be widely circulated and rigorously implemented as set.
These are my suggestions for the conference to further discussion and propose implementation measures. I strongly believe that participants of the conference who are implementers will identify more issues for elaborative discussion. Finally, on this auspicious occasion, I would like to open the conference and wish you all with five gems of Buddhist blessings.