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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land dispute drags on despite Siem Reap governor's ruling

Land dispute drags on despite Siem Reap governor's ruling

Siem Reap villagers refuse to accept a decision granting disputed farmland to residents of a neighbouring commune, despite assurances.

LAND dispute negotiations between villagers from neighbouring communes in Siem Reap province remained deadlocked Monday after one of the parties disputed the decision of the provincial governor, who promised the aggrieved party a social land concession.

The meeting was called by Governor Sou Phirin on Monday to find a peaceful solution in a land dispute between villagers in Siem Reap's Chi Kraeng and Anlong Samnor communes who have disputed the ownership a 92-hectare swath of farmland abutting the two regions.


"We cannot accept the provincial governor's decision, which allowed [Anlong Samnor villagers] to settle and farm on the disputed land, and his request to the government asking that it prepare social economic concession land for us," said Kim Savoeun, a representative of the Chi Kraeng residents, after the meeting Monday.

He also reiterated accusations that Anlong Samnor residents acquired the land after conspiring with District Governor Ke Sophoan.

"We will keep protesting for our land to be returned from Anlong Samnor commune, which Ke Sophoan conspired to steal from us."

Sou Phirin said Monday that the meeting delivered a fair outcome on the case.

"It was a big meeting between both lawyers and the communes concerned to show documents certifying who owns the land legally, and many government officials participated," he said.

He told the Post that it was decided following the meeting that the Anlong Samnor villagers would be allowed to continue farming the land, as officially recognised by the government since 2005, and that he would lodge an application for the remaining villagers on the Chi Kraeng side to be granted a social land concession that they could farm as they choose.

"[I will] prepare a social and economic land concession for the 175 or more families who lack land for farming. They will just make a list for me, and then I will lodge their request with the government."

Final settlement?

But Sou Phirin warned Chi Kraeng residents to respect the decision reached at the meeting, saying that it is "illegal and unacceptable for Chi Kraeng commune to fight for land legally owned by Anlong Samnor commune".

"To farm on their land is a violation that must be faced before the law."

Sar Vannara, a monitor with local rights group Licadho present at Monday's meeting, said that she was prepared for the dispute to continue, despite the governor's promise of an application for a social land concession.

"I will keep investigating the land dispute between the two communes, since this morning's solution was unsuccessful and Chi Kraeng commune residents were unhappy with the decision," she said.



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