Twenty-seven families from two villages in Pursat province yesterday confronted prison officials accused of annexing 78.5 hectares of farmland to accommodate a planned expansion.
Nov Pheoun, a representative of Phteah Rong village in Phnom Kravanh district, said yesterday that a brief, nonviolent altercation took place with officials at Correctional Centre 4 (CC4) who he said had prevented residents of his village and Chungrok village from cultivating land they had occupied since 1998.
“Authorities have recognised us as legal [owners], but the agriculture prison guards did not allow us to plant and said that the land belonged to them,” he said.
CC4, which opened last year, operates vocational agricultural training and rehabilitation programmes for inmates.
Prison director Hin Sophal referred questions concerning the expansion to district officials, who he said had researched the affected area before granting the land to his facility.
“While conducting research, they found only 60 affected families, and our authorities have prepared 190 hectares for them already, so other villagers who are affected are the local authority’s duty,” he said.
Phnom Kravanh district governor Toch Sambo said he planned to resolve the dispute, but contended that many of the families did not have legitimate legal claims to the land in question.
“They just came to anarchically take over state land, but we’ve educated them to move out already, and left only a few affected families for whom we are currently searching for a solution,” he said.
Nov Pheoun said villagers from Phteah Rong and Chungrok villages first voiced their complaints in early June, when they protested outside the National Assembly in Phnom Penh.