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Villagers ‘banned from land’

Villagers ‘banned from land’

About 100 families in Oddar Meanchey province’s Samrang district have sought intervention from rights group Adhoc to help resolve a dispute involving land they say the government granted them in 2006.

“We have been denied access to more than half of [our collective] 772 hectares, including my 3 hectares,” a villager, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from local authorities, said.

“The authorities said that if someone steps on the land, they will clear the crops,” he said, adding that the provincial Ministry of Agriculture office had originally allocated the 772 hectares of community forest to the 142 families to avoid future land disputes.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, told the Post yesterday that villagers had already submitted a petition and were preparing a formal complaint calling for intervention.

“We will begin investigating once they have submitted the formal complaint to us,” he said, adding that 85 villagers had submitted thumb-printed petitions to provincial authorities last week.

Provincial community forest chief Sar Thlay said the area of community forest had been carved out for families in 2006.

Cheab Tob, a commune chief in Samrang district, dismissed villagers’ claims.

“In that village, some of the land is covered by forest, so we marked it to tell villagers to stop clearing it,” Tob said.

“We did not measure or cut [off locals from] their land for anyone rich or any top government official,” he added.

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