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General concern over settlement

A nearly year-long land dispute in Oddar Meanchey has been resolved for most parties involved by the intervention of two RCAF generals, but critics contend the more than 2,400 hectare-giveaway is a ploy to influence upcoming elections.

Generals Kun Kim and Chea Tara yesterday granted 1.5 hectares to each of more than 1,600 families affected by a land concession granted to two rubber companies in Anglong Veng district this past June.

Most of the families affected by the concession, which granted some 14,000 hectares to Data Rubber Cambodia and Tomring Rubber Co Ltd, agreed to accept the 1.5 hectares, despite some having lost more than that and others having been landless.

“Villagers farmed on this land for a long time, but it’s state land,” said Anglong Veng district governor Yim Phanna. “The government agreed to give each 1.5 hectares, and they will get a legal land title.”

For some villagers, however, 1.5 hectares was not enough.

Villager Yem Sovann boycotted the meeting where villagers received the news, saying he lost more than 10 hectares of land.

“I won’t accept,” he said. “It’s too small for us, but I don’t know who to complain to.”

Heng Sambath, district council chief for the Norodom Ranariddh Party and second deputy commune chief of Anlong Veng commune, said the move was political.

“[The generals] appealed to people to vote for CPP candidate Vong Pheak. This [settlement] is to gain votes before the electoral campaign,” he said.

Srey Naren, provincial Adhoc coordinator, concurred.

“I wonder why the military officials went to give the land to the villagers,” he said. “It is a way to get [political] benefit from having power.”

But Tep Nytha, secretary-general of the National Election Committee, said that even if the move was politically motivated, it was still legal.

“As long as this campaigning is done in accordance with laws on political parties ... it’s not under the NEC’s control,” he said.

Neither Kun Kim nor Chea Tara could be reached.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chhay Channyda at channyda.chhay@phnompenhpost.com

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