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Disabled veterans locked in aid dispute

MEMBERS of a community of disabled veterans in Kampong Speu province say the head of a local aid organisation for the disabled has threatened to assault them and destroy their property if they continue to complain about the termination of a vocational aid programme last year.

The Association for the Relief of Disabled Cambodians (ARDC) had been running the vocational training programme, which was geared towards manufacturing jobs, until last June, when the Ministry of Women’s Affairs opted to cut US$120,000 in funding in response to allegations of corruption levelled by some of the association’s members. The corruption allegations were detailed in a June 2009 audit conducted by the ministry that was recently obtained by the Post.

The programme, which benefited families living on a social land concession in Veal Thom village, Phnom Srouch district, has not been operational since then, despite villagers’ attempts to have the head of the ARDC replaced and the programme reinstated.

The ARDC was charged with administering the social land concession, which was allocated in 2000. A total of 2,000 families received plots of land measuring 50 metres by 300 metres.

Individuals who dared to protest ... were met with violence....

Ou Yon, a 52-year-old representative of the villagers, in an interview last week, accused ARDC President Touch Seour Ly of threatening villagers who had raised complaints against him with local officials. He said Touch Seour Ly had hired workers to go from home to home, threatening individual families. He also said that since 2006, the ADB had seized the land of 30 families living on the social land concession.
“Individuals in the village who dared protest against Touch Seour Ly were met with violence, intimidation and threats of the seizure of their houses and land,” Ou Yon said.

Touch Seour Ly denied the intimidation allegations when reached by phone last week. He said the families that had lost their land or had been threatened with the loss of their land had violated the rules of the social land concession, which require families not to vacate the land for a period of 60 days or longer.

Chuch Kong, the chief of Treng Trayeng commune, in which the social land concession is located, said he did not know anything about the dispute when reached by phone on Monday.

Officials with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs either could not be reached or declined to comment when reached by phone late last week and on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ou Yon said villagers have received no word regarding when the vocational training programme might resume. He said, though, that they were planning to send a petition to Prime Minister Hun Sen in the hope that officials in Phnom Penh might step in and resolve the dispute.

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