A land dispute between Prek Pnov district residents and the Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC) came to a head on Sunday, with protesters claiming they were threatened and detained while company representatives and local officials said the demonstrators were peaceably removed.
According to landowner Iem Chouen, 38, four hectares of land near the Phnom Penh airport had belonged to families there since 1979, but they agreed to sell it to the FEBC in 1998. However, as of 2014, the families claim, they still hadn’t been paid, and instead tried to sell the land to Oknha Sok Heng.
In the intervening time, however, FEBC had already allegedly resold the land to Oknha Hong Piv.
Another local landowner, Mao Thun, 63, said that in 2014 a court ordered the land to be returned to the villagers. FEBC, however, appealed the verdict, and it has not yet been resolved.
“After clearing the disputed land, Far East Broadcasting Cambodia sold the land to Oknha Hong Piv, and that company continued clearing,” Thun said.
FEBC’s lawyer, Chan Sambo, acknowledged the court had sided with the villagers, but the Ministry of Land Management sided with the company.
“I wrote a letter to the Ministry of Land Management, which launched an investigation. The investigation discovered many irregularities and charged that there was systematic collusion between the people, brokers and local authorities who issued the documents,” said Sambo.
Nget Piseth, Piv’s assistant, echoed Sambo’s version of events, accusing the families of forging documents in cooperation with Heng, who wanted the land for himself.
“Hong Piv’s company purchased the land from Far East Broadcasting Cambodia Company legally with the clear and legal documents, not the fake documents,” said Sou Sivutha, director of the district land management office.
Iem San, another local landowner, claimed that local authorities yesterday had threatened the protesters with guns.
“The company contacted Prek Pnov District Military Police forces to arrest and detain them for two hours by locking about 10 villagers on the land surrounded by the fence, and threatening to shoot those villagers,” he said.
However, Suong Sam Oeun, Kouk Roka police chief, said that there was no actual clash, just shouting back and forth.
“They entered into the land and the security forces told them to get off the land without intimidation or abuse,” Sam Oeun claimed.