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Land dispute back in court

Seven representatives of 415 families entangled in an unresolved land dispute with a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces have received a second summons to appear in Battambang Provincial Court to clarify accusations that they had vandalised the commander’s property, village representatives said.

According to representative Im Sam Oeurn, he and six other residents of Andoung Kantout village in Kors Kralor district’s Dounba commune were asked to appear yesterday and today to explain allegations that they had damaged rubber trees owned by RCAF deputy commander Long Sidare, trees that Sam Oeurn said were planted on land previously occupied by villagers.  

“They not only sued us for damaging the rubber plantation, but also bulldozed our land for the rubber plantation, so I want to issue a strong rejection of this allegation,” he said.

Sam Oeurn maintained that Prime Minister Hun Sen had signed over 558 hectares of land for the families, but that local authorities not only refused to give them the land, but asked youth volunteers to measure it in favour of the commander.

“I wonder how to deal with the law, because our complaints are never touched, but we are always being summonsed from time to time,” Sam Oeurn said.  

Soun Bunthoeurn, a coordinator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said that the dispute has dragged on since 2007, with villagers filing multiple complaints, and some being forced to flee on charges such as incitement.

In August of 2008, five village representatives were convicted in absentia of robbery and damaging public property.

Deputy provincial governor Ou Ry said that all land issues are dealt with under the prime minister’s directive 01, which requires volunteers to set aside land for displaced residents.

“If they are the landlords, their land doesn’t disappear,” he said.

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

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