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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tanks sit between villagers, farmland

Tanks sit between villagers, farmland

Villagers in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samroang town filed a complaint to Adhoc yesterday after local authorities repeatedly failed to budge a nearby military unit, which the villagers say has stationed six tanks on their farmland and refused to grant residents access to their crops, or even explain its presence, since March.

Resident Yoem Yoeurn, 60, from Samroang’s Konkriel commune, said yesterday that his family and those of two of his relatives filed a complaint to the rights group as a last resort after authorities from the village to the provincial level failed to gain them access to their 8.5-hectare rice fields.

“The soldiers moved the tanks from O’Smach [commune], pla­cing them on our land. Since then, we are not allowed to enter,” Yoeurn said. “We will lack food if we cannot cultivate our land. Maybe we will starve next year.”

Yoeurn’s wife, Klan Nin, 59, also expressed concern about food shortages next year, and noted that her 10 children had already dropped their studies.

Commune chief Loeurng Noch said yesterday that the soldiers had stationed the tanks without informing local authorities, and that they had declined to discuss the matter after receiving a visit and a letter from local authorities.

“I reported it to the town governor already, and provincial police officers visited there before the election, but the soldiers still did not allow people to enter that place or the surrounding area,” Noch said.

Samroang town governor Thon Nol referred questions to provincial authorities, while Provincial Hall administration director Vath Paranin said he was unaware of the tanks, as did Hean Sok, the army commander for Samroang town.

However, Srey Naren, a coordinator for Adhoc, said the soldiers were part of Division 62’s Tank Unit Number II, and had cultivated cassava plants on the land that were now knee-high.

Adhoc will be sending a letter to town officials and the Land Management Department asking for resolution, he added.

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