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Soldiers cry foul over ‘land grabbing’

About 1,500 representatives of military families in Oddar Meanchey province are planning to file a complaint directly to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s office accusing a high-ranking Royal Cambodian Armed Forces general of selling a large chunk of their land to two Vietnamese rubber companies.

The soldiers, commanders and deputy commanders living on the land in the province’s Trampaing Prasat district, are part of the Sixth Intervention Brigade. They were expected to submit the complaint against four-star General Kun Kim by Wednesday.

But Kun Kim, who heads up the office of the Mixed Chiefs of Staff, told the Post yesterday that the claims are bogus, that families are occupying the properties illegally, and that the Cambodian government granted the land to the two companies, identified as Best Royal and Taining, in 2008.

“So far, the Royal Government of Cambodia had not issued any sub-decree in granting these lands to the troops and their families … but they have illegally cleared and possessed it,” he told the Post yesterday.

Major General Chhum Kheng, a brigade commander who lives in the affected district, said that as of yesterday, bulldozers had cleared 4,000 hectares of land, destroying rice and other planted crops.

Representatives for the two companies identified in the complaint could not be reached for comment yesterday.

A chief of staff for the brigade living in the district told the Post that the loss of land was seriously affecting the mental state of the troops.

“It has also affected their fighting spirits and positions in defending Cambodian borders in the future,” said the chief of staff, who asked to remain anonymous.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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