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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 3,500 families affected this year by land grabs involving army: group

3,500 families affected this year by land grabs involving army: group

Military is increasingly being used as muscle by private businesses trying to remove people from land slated for development, Licadho says

AT LEAST 3,500 families were affected by land disputes involving the Cambodian military in the first 11 months of this year, the human rights group Licadho said Sunday.

"There are 25 cases of land disputes with armed soldiers that affected more than 3,500 families," said Licadho investigator Chheng Sophors.

"These were where the soldiers claimed the [disputed] land belonged to either an individual, their military units or to companies that received a land concession and hired armed guards to expel the people from their land," he told the Post.

He said that Licadho intended to file a report to the Council of Ministers and government ministries, asking for intervention "because soldiers are obligated to serve the people, not private companies".

The military has been implicated in several land disputes across the country that have turned violent, drawing sharp criticism from rights groups.

"The government doesn't seem interested in taking any action against these violent attacks by armed military and police over land disputes," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.

"This is a severe human rights violation and a danger to democracy," he said Sunday.

Government officials, when contacted Sunday, said they were too busy to comment.

But Moeung Samphan, a secretary of state with the Defence Ministry, said that these disputes needed to be settled through the national committee established to resolve land grabs.

"I cannot elaborate on the Licadho report on these disputes," he told the Post.

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