Two hundred representatives of more than 500 families from Preah Vihear made the long journey to Phnom Penh yesterday to seek Hun Sen’s intervention in a bitter, long-standing land dispute involving the now-defunct NGO Drugs and Aids Research and Prevention Organisation.
In 2007, DARPO was granted more than 500 hectares of land by the government to distribute to poor villagers living in Preah Vihear’s Kantuot village.
However, villagers were already living on the land DARPO was granted, a problem that was compounded when the NGO then sold the bulk of the land to a handful of families from Preah Vihear and Phnom Penh.
Village representative Ty Tom, 45, who traveled to Phnom Penh yesterday, said that in 2008, DARPO tricked him out of a 40-by-100-metre plot for which he had paid US$4,000 in 2002.
“They [DARPO] said that the land I had bought is state land. Therefore, the government took that land back to provide to poor people. But they, in fact, took the land to sell. I come to complain for my land back,” Ty Tum said.
Residents have filed numerous complaints against DARPO, accusing the NGO of seizing more land than it was granted and terrorising villagers.
Khim Khon, is now disabled after allegedly being beaten in 2010 by two former DARPO staff members who also purportedly raped her 13-year-old daughter. She said DARPO president Pen Lim took her $6,000 land payment in 2007, then resold the plot to another buyer.
“It is unjust for me. Pen Lim and his accomplices hit me to leave my arms and legs crippled and cheated me of land to sell to two other persons,” she said.
Cabinet official No Ra received the villagers’ complaint, and promised to reply this week.
Pen Lim could not be reached for comment yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at firstname.lastname@example.org