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Lengthy Banteay Meanchey land dispute finally ends in payout

After a seven-year struggle, a Banteay Meanchey teacher finally got $8,000 in compensation for her land, which was seized by the Cambodian military during a border flare-up with Thailand.

Souk Ratha, a high school chemistry teacher, said that her father bought a hectare in Pong Rong village in Sisophon district in 1994 but, during the 2009 standoff between Cambodia and Thailand, a tank division took up defensive position on her land.

“They closed the gate, not allowing me to enter. Whenever I went there, they blocked me and told their subordinates to say unpleasant words to me,” Ratha said in an interview yesterday. “When I asked permission to plant, they said they were afraid it would block their armaments.”

Ratha said she wrote countless letters of complaint to local authorities and civil society over the dispute and staged multiple demonstrations. Over time, the military agreed to give $3,000, which she deemed insufficient.

The breakthrough came on Friday, when Provincial Governor Korsum Saroeut offered $5,000 more in provincial funds. “It is hard for her to earn a living and it’s definitely difficult [for her] to get new land for settlement; so let’s help her,” he said.

Sum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, called the governor’s compensation a “good deed” under Buddhist tradition.

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