Returning to a long-time party priority, opposition lawmakers yesterday said they will travel to Kampong Cham’s Memot district today to investigate claims that Vietnamese troops were forcing farmers off land that rightfully belongs to Cambodia.
Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker-elect Mao Monyvan, who ran in Kampong Cham, said villagers had reported Vietnamese troops stopping them from farming. Local authorities, however, insist that villagers had simply crossed into an as yet un-demarcated “white zone” where neither Cambodians nor Vietnamese are allowed to farm.
“People reported to [me] and people asked me so many times, calling me to ask lawmakers to go down,” Monyvan said yesterday.
Villager Man Yoeun, 53, from Memot’s Roung commune, maintained yesterday that she had farmed her land since 1993 with only minimal interference but that this year troops chased her off and uprooted some of her potatoes.
“The yuon use to come to stop me but not as often; I was still able to farm,” she said, using a term for the Vietnamese. “But this year, they have chased me out.”
Fellow villager Man Pech, 45, said she too was run off by Vietnamese soldiers.
“I told them that I have planted here every year and [no one] chased me out, so this year why are [you] chasing me out?” she said. “They said that their leaders did not allow planting.”
However, Memot District Governor Cheng Bunnara told the Post yesterday that villagers had been clearing new land, straying into a neutral buffer, or “white”, zone where farming was banned on both sides of the border, which has not been fully demarcated.
“Out there a farmer has his old land and the land that he has cleared more recently,” said Bunnara. “For his old land, it does not matter, he can farm normally, but if there is clearance of his newer land, it affects [the white zone].”