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Villager lodges land complaint with ministry

A representative of more than 300 families from Preah Sihanouk province locked in a dispute with a company run by ruling-party senator Lao Meng Khin travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday to seek government intervention.

Yon Savat, a village representative from Prey Nop district’s Bit Traing commune, said he had filed a complaint with the Ministry of Information after receiving no reply to a complaint he had lodged with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet in August.

“I asked [Information Minister Khieu Kanharith] to go and research our place, because he is a government representative,” he said.

Since 1993, 323 families had lived on 728 hectares of land in Puo Thoeung village in Bit Traing commune, Yon Savat said, before businessmen and officials violently seized the land in 2005.

Provincial governor Sbong Sarath said the villagers were living on property that was part of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone.

“The company is developing that land, but those villagers came to take it over,” he said.

Shukaku Inc, a local developer run by Lao Meng Khin, is one of many firms granted the right to develop land in the Sihanoukville SEZ.

Yon Savat claimed that when the government issued a map of the SEZ in 2008, Lao Meng Khin requested that the government include 1,113 hectares spanning Bit Traing and Ream communes in the zone ­– which included Puo Thoeung village – which were not part of the original zone.

He cited six instances in which he claimed businessmen and government officials had harassed villagers. Lao Meng Khin could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Prey Nop district governor Tit Vuthy said the villagers had never complained to him.

“I don’t know who is right and who is wrong, because recently it has become very hard to believe villagers – some are good and some are not good,” he said.

Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said the premier had sent a letter to the National Authority for Land Dispute Resolution in order to seek an end to the dispute.

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