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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Land dispute pits PM’s brother against Brigade 70 general

Tractors sit on a plot of land last week in Kampong Speu’s Oral district that is at the centre of a land dispute between Prime Minister Hun Sen’s brother, Hun San, and the deputy general of Brigade 70.
Tractors sit on a plot of land last week in Kampong Speu’s Oral district that is at the centre of a land dispute between Prime Minister Hun Sen’s brother, Hun San, and the deputy general of Brigade 70. NRWPO

Land dispute pits PM’s brother against Brigade 70 general

The Kampong Speu Provincial Court has joined the fray in a land battle between Hun Sen’s elder brother and a general attached to RCAF’s infamous Brigade 70, ordering a halt to its clearing.

A court officer, joined by 20 local authority officers and several members of local NGO Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization (NRWPO), on Friday went to the disputed property, where they kicked out the general’s workers, who were clearing the land with four tractors. No one was arrested.

Hun San, the premier’s brother and director of the Cambodia Shipping Agency, bought a parcel of land from villagers in Kampong Speu’s Oral district in 1999.

Since then, RCAF Major General Khay Narin, assisted by land brokers Thorng Sokheng and Ly Lun, has purchased land that allegedly overlaps San’s property by 1,000 hectares, according to San’s lawsuit, which was filed with the provincial court in July.

Narin started clearing the land earlier this year to plant sugarcane, cassava, pepper and cashew, according to the lawsuit. Provincial court judge Chem Rithy issued the injunction against the clearing on August 19.

“His Excellency Hun San asked for a [court order] to protect and ban any activities on the lands, because those can cause loss of his land,” said Rithy. “The possession [by] the opponent’s side will affect his legal right [to] the land.”

The Post could not reach Narin for comment.

Chea Hean, the NRWPO director whom San had asked for help, said local authorities authorised the land sale to Narin “when they were offered some money”. He said the new commune chief, who signed off on Khay’s purchase, blames his predecessor, who had signed off on San’s purchase in 1999.

Oral District Governor Muong Thy yesterday said the overlap stems from a cartographer’s poor mapmaking skills, adding that the new commune chief was unaware the land already has an owner.

According to the governor, neither party possesses a title to the land, only records of their purchases. Title-less disputes are usually handled by local authorities, not courts of law.

“The old commune chief passed away, and we do not know who drew the plan for them,” he said. “The land, which has not had a title, is not [under] the court’s authority. But if they filed the case to the court, let the court solve the problem.”

RCAF’s Brigade 70, which formerly included Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, has in the past been accused by rights groups of everything from illegal logging to political arrests and even murder.

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