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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers call for PM’s help in land fight

Villagers call for PM’s help in land fight

Disputes return

Eighty villagers representing about 240 families locked in a land dispute with a defunct NGO headed by a one-star general yesterday travelled from Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey to call for intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“We are clinging to hope to see our problem resolved. Some have dropped the fight to work in Thailand because they were tired after nine meetings with the authorities that never figured out the solution,” said Sat Savoeurn, a community representative.

Officials from Hun Sen’s cabinet took the villagers’ complaints.

In 2007, the government gave a 556-hectare social land concession to the Drug and AIDS Research and Prevention Organisation, an NGO headed by Pen Loem. The project came under attack, with residents filing numerous complaints, accusing the organisation of seizing land and subjecting villagers to threats, rape and beatings.  

In 2012, Hun Sen ordered authorities to take action against Loem. Loem was dropped from his position as an adviser to Senate President Chea Sim and his NGO was shuttered, but no legal action has been taken.

The Post could not reach Loem for comment, but he denied allegations in local media, saying he gave the land to the poor, but that when people let it lie fallow, he would repossess and redistribute it.

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