Fifty Tampuon ethnic minority families protested yesterday in front of the Soeung Commune Hall in Bakeo district against their commune chief, who they allege sold land that belonged to the Ratanakkiri community.
In a complaint filed to rights group Adhoc yesterday, the families claim that commune chief Ro Mam Tham sold a 52-by-72-metre piece of the 1.5 hectare of land set aside for the commune hall to a Mr Meng for $10,000, said Dy Virak, one of the protesters.
“The land is the old village land of our community, and it was given to authorities to build a commune hall,” Virak said. “But the rest of the land [not used for the commune hall] the commune chief sold secretly.”
The families did not know when the sale took place but learned of it on Sunday, when the buyer set up a fence around the land, he said.
“The commune land is state land, so the commune chief has no rights to sell it,” said Chhay Thy, Adhoc co-ordinator in Ratanakkiri. “If he sells like this, it is illegal.”
Adhoc already had forwarded the case to provincial court, he added.
Seoung commune chief Ro Mam Tham denied the families’ accusation, saying that they did not know the full situation.
“This was not a case of sale. The fact is, we exchanged the rest of the land for materials to repair the commune hall and build a fence,” he said.
Authorities and residents would meet today to settle the issue, he added.