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Interfering officials arrested

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Youth volunteers board trucks before departing Phnom Penh last week to take part in a land measurement program organised by the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction. Photograph: Heng Chivoan/Phnom Penh Post

Military police in Stung Treng province arrested five government officials yesterday after they forcibly stopped student volunteers from measuring property lines as part of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s national initiative to help settle land disputes.

The volunteers, mostly university students, were measuring land for villagers in conflict with companies that had received economic land concessions in Samaki commune.

A deputy commander with the military police who didn’t want to be named said that five officials from the Ministry of National Defence and the Council of Ministers were arrested. He said some of them had positions as legal advisers to the government.

“The case involves high ranking officials – it is too difficult to find information as authorities are willing to keep information from spreading,” said Hour Sam Ol, an investigator for the rights group Adhoc in Stung Treng.

Stung Treng provincial governor Loy Sophat said that the dispute started because a “group of people”, whom he didn’t identify, tried to force the volunteer students to measure land for their own development purposes. Apparently, they wanted to plant an orchard.

“Thus, what they did is contrary to the government policy,” he said.

Sophat declined to identify the group because he said he needed to make contact with military police officers first.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at titthara.may@phnompenhpost.com

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