Land Ownership after the Khmer Rouge

Siem Reap

Source: Molyvann, Vann. Modern Khmer Cities. Phnom Penh, Cambodia : Reyum ; [Chicago, IL?] : Sales and distribution, USA, Art Media Resources, c2003.


Decree of April 22, 1989

Article One of this Decree declared that all goods, whether moveable or immovable, located within the territory of Cambodia were the collective property of the Cambodian people and no property rights prior to 1979 would be recognized.

Article Two of this Decree gave the rights of property to the actual inhabitants of the property and authorized them to transfer those rights by inheritance or sale, provided that foreigners did not benefit from such a transfer.

Article Three of this Decree established the principal of land taxation.

Article Four of this Decree instituted a procedure ro officially establishing land claims through the deposit of a request and the obtaining of a previsionary certificate of occupation.

The Constitution of April 30, 1989

Article 14 of the new constitution defined the public domain of the State. Article 15 of the new Constitution recognized the rights of possession and use of land by Cambodia citizens living on it. Article 18 categorically prohibited all forced confiscations of the property of citizens. Article 18 also, however, authorized expropriation of certain property if and only if it was necessary for the public good, and if and only if proper indemnity was offered for seized property.

The Instruction of June 3, 1989

The instruction related that no pre-1979 land claims were to be honored, and that the State could not undo the redistribution of land which had taken place after January 7, 1989. The instruction also clarified and detailed the procedure for officially procuring ownership rights. In order to make a land claim, the head of a family had to request authorization for occupancy from the People’s committee of the district, commune, and village according to models provided by the Agricultural Service. Applications for land occupancy documents should be submitted from the day of instruction. After December 31, 1989 the State would consider all land with no claims laid on it as free and unappropriated.

The Land Law of August 11, 1992

The law reintroduced the right of individuals to own property. The first section of the law defined the notion of property and enumerated different types of ownership (propriety, temporary possession, authorization to cultivate, concession, ownership for a life time, right to use etc.) The second section of the law regulated the acquisition of property and affirmed the inalienable rights of both the public and private domains. Article 74 states that the peaceful, continuous, well-intentioned inhabitation of a property for more than five years – provided that this habitation was publicly acknowledged without ambiguity – would henceforth transform into legal possession of the property, provided that there were no contestations and that the property had been properly registered. A property which had ben unoccupied for three consecutive years automatically became State property.

The Law of Assignment of Properties of January 29, 1993

This short six article law regulates the division of properties between the State and the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). After January 29, 1993, any building occupied by either the State of the CPP was declared as their respective property. The CPP seemingly benefited from this law since any law since any building it occupied immediately became its property without the intermediate step of possession, taxation and use for a period of five years required for all ordinary Cambodian citizens under the Land Law. Although this law was modified in 1993 following legislative elections sponsored by the United Nations, the legacy of victory property still lingers today.

The Constitution of September 21, 1993

Article 44 of the new constitution reaffirmed the right to own private property but stipulated that only Cambodia citizens could own property in Cambodia. The Constitution also reiterated that the expropriation of property could only take place if the property was needed for the public good.


2 thoughts on “Land Ownership after the Khmer Rouge

  1. […] this is unverified. From what I understand this is due largely to the policies instated regarding Land Ownership After the Khmer Rouge. 3) Traditional city maps of Phnom Penh (will find an example to post) preference formal spatial […]

  2. […] the transfer of land ownership post-Khmer Rouge in some way supports this idea that house numbers were ‘picked out of the air’ I do […]

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