Banteay Meanchey provincial officials yesterday offered to find new land for 74 former Khmer Rouge soldiers locked in a land dispute with their military bosses.
The ex-soldiers claim that in the late 1990s, the government allotted each of them 50 hectares of land in Malai district’s Tuol Pongro commune – territory that their commanders allegedly sold for a profit before the soldiers could move in.
Yesterday, representatives of the soldiers’ families, provincial authorities and Mao Kiri, former deputy chief of Regiment E67, met to broker a solution.
Provincial deputy governor Chong Pet claimed the families would be offered new land if they would move off of the Tuol Pongro commune parcels they began occupying in March. Pet stopped short of specifying where the soldiers could relocate to, or how much they would be given.
“We cannot accept the decision. We will fight to the death and not leave here,” said Ly Khley, 46, a community representative and former Khmer Rouge soldier.
Som Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, also expressed disappointment at the deputy governor’s insistence on evicting the soldiers.
“He did not investigate. He came to the meeting and it seemed like a decision had already been made,” Chankea said.
Kiri, now a commander of Battalion 511, said he was satisfied with the outcome.
“We have witnesses that the land was sold collectively to business people. I am not a thief selling other people’s land,” he said. “So please, people dwelling in the area, leave and the provincial authorities will find a new location for you.”