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Land feud in P Vihear heats up

Land feud in P Vihear heats up

A Vietnamese-owned company in Preah Vihear province has cleared land claimed by hundreds of villagers to plant crops in violation of the law, a complaint filed with rights groups alleges.

The community in Rovieng district’s Ruosroan commune, comprising 127 families, claims that since January last year, workers from the PNT company had cleared the land and refused to allow the villagers to continue to live in enclaves within the concession as previously agreed.

Vong Sokkheng Ly, a 48-year-old former soldier and representative of the villagers, said many of the villagers had lived on the land for 15 years or more, while the company only signed a contract with the Ministry of Agriculture in 2010, according to the ministry’s website.

“I got this land and farmed on eight hectares for 15 years until now to help raise my kids,” he said.

PNT representatives, including its listed board director, Tseng Kuo-Chan, could not be reached yesterday.

“If they come and seize the land like this, how can we continue to live,” Ly said, adding that 3 hectares of his land and at least 20 hectares of other villagers’ land had already been cleared by the company.

Ang Cheatlom, executive director of the Ponlok Khmer Organization in Preah Vihear, one of two rights groups that received the villagers’ complaints, said that PNT disputed the community’s claim to the land in its 7,900-hectare economic land concession.

“If the company cuts off some land for the villagers, the dispute will end. The company will still benefit, since it will still have lots of land,” he said.

Chuon Chieng, Ruosroan commune chief, said the company had given his office assurances that it would not attempt to take the land from the villagers.

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