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A man poses by tractors in an area of protected forest in Oddar Meanchey province that locals say has been seized by military officials. Photo supplied
A man poses by tractors in an area of protected forest in Oddar Meanchey province that locals say has been seized by military officials. Photo supplied

Soldiers accused of Oddar Meanchey land grab

Villagers in Oddar Meanchey province have made a last-ditch appeal to salvage a chunk of their community forest they claim was grabbed by military officials for private use.

Keut Mab, deputy chief of Andong Bor community forest, said 488 families in Beanteay Ampil district’s Beng commune yesterday reached out to rights group Adhoc in the hopes of resolving the land dispute with a group of soldiers.

The protected community forest covers more than 6,000 hectares, but since 2011, army forces led by Major General Sorn Sea have cleared the forest, built private homes and rented property, Mab alleged.

“Our community forest has been cleared and only about 100 hectares are intact . . . thousands of hectares have been sold, rented and grabbed as private property,” he said. “Soldiers are plowing every day. When villagers intercepted, they cocked theirs guns to intimidate them.”

However, Sorn Sea denied the allegations and claimed that each soldier was entrusted a house and a single hectare with government approval some five years ago, during armed conflict with Thailand.

“I do not know about the selling or renting of land.”

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