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Kandal villagers seek solution in old dispute

More than 100 villagers from Kandal province gathered in front of the Kandal provincial court yesterday to demand a resolution to their long-standing land dispute with the Heng Development Company.

Ien Yan, a community repre-sentative from Kandal Stung district, said that in 2004 the company had grabbed 200 hectares of land villagers had been using for rice farming.

He said the company had ignored rulings by the provincial court in October, 2006 and February, 2007 that the land be returned to the villagers.

“We won the court case a long time ago, but they [the court] have not done anything for us. So we will go down and take action on our case.”

Provincial prosecutor Ouk Kimsith told protesters he was unable to resolve the dispute, and suggested they file a complaint to the Ministry of Justice.

Ien Yan said villagers would take their case to the ministry.

Pol Oun, a villager from Kandal Stung district, said the court should create a joint committee responsible for sorting out disputes over land ownership.

He also claimed the comp-any was using security guards to keep villagers out.

“We have not entered our land since 2008, and we dare not try because they have placed security guards who carry guns at the site,” Pol Oun said.

Ouch Leng, land program chief at rights group Adhoc, said the case showed how the poor were routinely charged, arrested or imprisoned – even when innocent – but the wealthy and powerful never lost, even when found guilty.

“It is not equal treatment before the law,” he said.

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