P Vi­hear fam­i­lies seek land dis­pute so­lu­tion

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Soth Koem­soeun

AL­MOST 150 peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing some 253 fam­i­lies from Preah Vi­hear prov­ince’s Choam Ksan district trav­elled to Phnom Penh on Tues­day to seek help from the author­i­ties to re­solve an ongoing land dis­pute.

The fam­i­lies, who have been evicted from their vil­lages, had also pe­ti­tioned the Min­istry of Land Man­age­ment on April 30 for a so­lu­tion, but re­turned to the cap­i­tal on Tues­day af­ter claim­ing no ac­tion had been taken.

The pe­ti­tion said that on Jan­uary 1, 2012, Chuk Phoeun, chief of the Na­tional Author­ity in Preah Vi­hear, and Suos Yara, a law­maker from the Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party, al­legedly col­luded with pro­vin­cial author­i­ties who brought the armed forces with land-clear­ing ma­chin­ery to de­mol­ish houses, schools, hos­pi­tals, pa- go­das, and ul­ti­mately, force­fully evict­ing the vil­lagers.

The area has been slated for de­vel­op­ment to house mil­i­tary vet­er­ans, with the vil­lagers be­ing forced off their land.

How­ever, they were pre­vi­ously of­fered some of the land they had orig­i­nally lived on, but re­jected it.

The dis­pute prompted the vil­lagers to sub­mit pe­ti­tions to na­tional author­i­ties in the cap­i­tal mul­ti­ple times. Un­til now, they claim that no so­lu­tion has been forth­com­ing.

Phan Phoeun, one of 149 rep­re­sen­ta­tives, said the pe­ti­tion­ers had spent five years ap­peal­ing for so­lu­tions from Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen, min­istry of­fi­cials and the Na­tional As­sem­bly, de­mand­ing the le­gal right to the 3,335 hectares they had lived on, but to no avail.

“How can we still have hope? Now, the of­fi­cials have asked us to re­turn to the prov­ince. They told us to pe­ti­tion the pro­vin­cial author­i­ties for a so­lu­tion in­stead. We don’t have much hope it will be re­solved,” he said.

How­ever, Yara claims the dis­pute was fab­ri­cated by a small group of in­di­vid­u­als who wanted more than they had.

“We have al­ready given them com­pen­sa­tion, but this ongoing prob­lem is be­ing prop­a­gated by a group of cor­rupt in­di­vid­u­als. As for me, I’m not in­volved in that area be­cause it’s state pub­lic land,” he said.

Preah Vi­hear Pro­vin­cial Gover­nor Un Chenda could not be reached for com­ment on Tues­day.

Lor Chan, pro­vin­cial co­or­di­na­tor for rights group Ad­hoc, said the land in that area has been in dis­pute for years.

“The pro­vin­cial author­i­ties should sum­mon their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to re­solve the dis­pute. It has been go­ing on for many years with­out a so­lu­tion. The vil­lagers are strug­gling,” Chan said.

MENG SRUN SRENG

Vil­lagers protest in Phnom Penh for a so­lu­tion to their land dis­pute in Preah Vi­hear prov­ince in March.

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