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Hearing in long land dispute

About 160 families from Kampong Thom province will travel to their district hall today to try to resolve a land dispute that has burdened them for five years.

Lawmakers and representatives of civil society organisations will join the families from Santuk district’s Samlieng village to hear authorities announce a resolution to a dispute involving more than 400 hectares of land, which were declared part of a social land concession in 2006.  

According to an invitation letter from Santuk district hall dated November 8, the villagers living on the disputed land must attend today’s hearing or else be considered as having no right to claim they lived on the land. Neth Sao, 58, a representative of villagers living on the land, said the villagers would demand the governor put an end to the dispute. He said the villagers had settled on the land in 1980, and village-commune officials had recognised them as the owners until the Ministry of Agriculture confiscated the land in 2006.

Neth Sao said that until April 2 last year, authorities had ordered their subordinates to bulldoze the villagers’ crops.

“We would request the officials of the district hall abide by two conditions: One, they must not confiscate our land and turn the land into concession land and, two, make the land which is exchanged between authorities and villagers recognised by law,” he said.

Santuk district governor Sorm Vann Than said he had urged the villagers to show only their names and land titles today.

“The land is a concession land for soldiers, but previously, the confiscation of the land in the area from the villagers for a few military families was made because there was controversy with the villagers living there, so the district started resolving the case step by step,” he said.

Chhim Savuth, public forum project coordinator of Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said he was prepared to intervene for the villagers, but would wait for a resolution from the authorities after the meeting.

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