About 100 villagers from Pailin province travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to intervene in their 70-hectare land dispute with the provincial governor, a village representative said.
Dem Deam, 40, a resident of Pailin’s Stung Trang commune in Sala Krao district, said that the villagers came to Phnom Penh to pass along a petition to Hun Sen’s cabinet, asking it to send volunteers to issue them titles for the more than 2,100 hectares of land they have farmed for more than a decade, including 70 hectares which villagers say were recently cleared and converted into cassava fields by Governor Y Chhean.
“We requested the land title from the authorities because we have lived there for 12 years, but they said our land is private state land and protected state land, so the land volunteer students did not go to measure,” said Deam. “We suggested to the prime minister to urge the students to do it for us because we’ve lived there for a long time.”
“Local authorities said it belongs to Y Chhean, who did not allow students to measure land for us,” he added.
On June 14, Hun Sen issued a sub-decree giving authorities across the country six months to measure parcels of land for people embroiled in land disputes in protected forests and on lands given as economic concessions to companies.
According to Deam, the villagers’ land had never been disputed before, but in February, workers bulldozed the land to plant cassava believed by villagers to belong to Chhean.
Kong Chamroeun, a complaint officer in Hun Sen’s cabinet, said that he accepted the petition yesterday evening.
“I received [the petition], and am working with them,” he said.
Prak Sophima, the Pailin provincial co-ordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the land in question affected five villages in Stung Trang commune, and confirmed that some parcels had been cleared for plantations.
Y Chhean could not be reached for comment.
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