Diakonia - People change the world
Manak Soun Manak Soun with the documents showing that she owns her land.

Our land is our life

Manak Soun and Simorn Y had lived in the same place for more than 20 years. In 2005 they discovered that the land they were living on was not included in the government’s land registration system, which meant that they could be evicted at any time. This was where their work to gain entitlement to their land began. It would be a struggle that continued for more than a decade!

The area where they live, known as Tomnop 2, is on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and consists of a number of small houses. The area is flooded in the rainy season, with the water sometimes reaching knee height, and access to public services is non-existent in the area. Despite this over 150 families live here. Many come from other parts of Cambodia and have no secure livelihood.

Long and persistent effort

When Manak Soun and Simorn Y tried to register their land at the municipal office, they discovered that the area had been earmarked for municipal reservoirs, despite the fact that many families had been living there for some time.

Manak Soun and Simorn Y came into contact with Diakonia’s partner organization the NGO Forum on Cambodia. Through the organization, they have on a number of occasions met several different public authorities for talks, meetings and workshops on the future of the area. After long and persistent efforts, they eventually achieved results.

They point at a number of areas on the municipal map, saying proudly:

“The authorities have agreed to register the land as ours. I’m happy because they’ve been to measure the land and collected documentation, so now I know that they’ve completed two steps out of five,” continues Simorn.

"I'll never sell this land"

Manak continues:

“With money from a municipal investment fund, we’ve been able to build roads in the area, as well as connecting to the water and electricity mains. I’ll never sell this land, even if the area is developed and it increases in value.”

Simorn and Manak’s joy at their victory in getting the land registered is impossible to miss. Simorn talks about the difficulties it has entailed:

“Since I began the process, the authorities have discriminated against me. For example, they’ve accused me of sympathising with the opposition party,” he says. In the political climate prevailing in Cambodia, such an accusation may mean not having access to public services or being subjected to different forms of harassment, for example.

Support other facing similar challenges

“Gaining the right to our land has given us confidence in ourselves. We are the rightful owners, and we don’t need to worry that someone will take the land away from us.”

Simorn and Manak are not just fighting for their own land but have also joined the organization POCD, in which they support others facing similar challenges.