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Cham villagers protest ruling blocking burial plots

Cham villagers gather to demand access to a community graveyard on Wednesday in Kampong Chhnang province. Photo supplied
Cham villagers gather to demand access to a community graveyard on Wednesday in Kampong Chhnang province. Photo supplied

Cham villagers protest ruling blocking burial plots

A land dispute has taken a grave turn after a court ruling prohibited Cham Muslims in Kampong Chhnang province from burying their loved ones in a cemetery at the site.

Thirty Kampong Chhnang families yesterday protested against the court decision, which temporarily banned the sale, transfer of ownership or construction on around 4,500 square metres of land in Khsam commune, and also put a halt to interring bodies at the cemetery until the conflict, which began in 2015, was resolved.

Kampong Chhnang court spokesperson Chhourn Sivin said the decision merely followed the request of complainant El Sen, who said he owns the plot. “If they bury the dead bodies now, and then later on if the complainant wins the case, would we unearth the graves? This would affect their souls.”

Kub Chan Sat, a representative of the villagers, said the graveyard had existed since the 1960s and that he and other residents, including Sen, bought plots of land in 1995.

Chan Sat alleged Sen only purchased a small plot, but obtained ownership papers in 1997 which covered 2.7 hectares, including the villagers’ homes and the graveyard. “If [the court] forbids [action] only on the land outside of the graveyard, that would be OK,” he said.

Sen could not be reached, but his son, Ly Ho Sann, said there was no graveyard when his father purchased the land, and that villagers subsequently occupied it. However, he agreed the villagers should be allowed to continue to use the cemetery.

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