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Community representatives from Koh Kong province speak to local media at the Phnom Penh Appeals Court
Community representatives from Koh Kong province speak to local media at the Phnom Penh Appeals Court yesterday about an ongoing land dispute. Heng Chivoan

Koh Kong villagers seek PM’s help in capital

Villagers from Koh Kong province have descended on the capital, ready to petition Prime Minister Hun Sen and the government today to intervene in their long-running land dispute with prominent businessman Heng Huy.

Phav Nhoeung, a representative of 15 families in Sre Ambel district’s Chi Khor Krom commune who claim to have resisted threats from Huy to vacate their homes since 2009, said yesterday that 30 villagers would camp out in Phnom Penh overnight.

“I will stay in Phnom Penh to wait to submit a petition to the prime minister’s cabinet and the National Assembly. We will also go to the Ministry of Interior to submit our petition,” she said.

Nhoeung said that since Huy won a case against fellow businessman Sok Hong in 2009 regarding a plot that borders the villagers’, he had attempted to encroach on their land.

“They bordered each other, but when Heng Huy implemented the verdict [granting him Hong’s land], it was on our land,” she said

“Only stubborn villagers like us still resist … but it’s been our land for a long time and Heng Huy wants to grab it,” she added.

The villagers had timed their trip to the capital to coincide with an Appeal Court hearing, scheduled for yesterday, over the disputed land, but the hearing was postponed because Huy’s attorney needed more time to collect evidence, Nhoeung said.

Nhoeung herself is scheduled to appear in court next month to face the company’s accusations of violence.

Last month, Hun Sen blamed the inaction of local officials for ongoing land disputes.

Tuon Seila, Sre Ambel district governor, said that the case was beyond his “authority’s capacity”, but added that, had he known about the villagers’ plans, he “would have asked them to solve the problem in the community”.

Huy could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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