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Firm has soldiers in pocket, say villagers

Hundreds of families in Banteay Meanchey province’s Thma Puok district filed a complaint yesterday to rights group Adhoc, claiming their community farmland is being bulldozed by a company under the protection of soldiers.

The land – a 1,300-hectare area of Thma Puok district’s Banteay Chhmar commune – was given to the residents by the state in five-hectare allotments, 50-year-old villager Pen Sophon said.

“They cleared our land of more than 10 hectares, and they plan to clear the whole 1,300-hectares, which will affect 425 families. The local authority must inform the residents first why they took bulldozers to clear our land,” he said.

He added that the villagers had not received prior notification of the Leang Bou company’s plans to clear the site, which he said were carried out with the help of about 50 soldiers.

Another resident, Than Pov, 42, said that while the land had not been properly measured, this did not give the company the right to bring in the bulldozers.

“Even though the residents did not have their land measured to get a license, companies should not take bulldozers to break our land,” he said.

Deab Chhun, a Thma Pouk district deputy governor, said that authorities were examining the case and would investigate the company when they had an official complaint.

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