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Villagers face blockade in Sihanoukville

MILITARY police in Preah Sihanouk province have surrounded a local community following a Supreme Court ruling in a land dispute and were forcing residents to register as they moved in and out, villagers said yesterday.

On Friday, the Supreme Court declared that a piece of land in Stung Hav district’s Commune 1 that is home to 149 families belongs to the developer Ly Hong Sin Company. Over the weekend, local authorities bulldozed 78 homes in the community.

Yesterday, Stung Hav resident Hem Sophoan said military police had formed a cordon outside the community.

“Only villagers living inside are allowed to enter,” she said. “We have to register with our name and house number to go outside, and we have to do the same thing when we come back home.”

Stung Hav resident Lou Vannaret said other villagers had been banned from accessing their dwellings entirely.

“Villagers should be allowed to enter to take care of their property, but they are being stopped by military police,” Lou Vannaret said.

Kim Eng, vice president of Preah Sihanouk provincial court, said villagers were to dismantle the 43 remaining homes in the community within one month, adding that the road to the village had been blocked only after the court verdict.

Local residents claim to have lived in the area since 1999. Ly Sin Hong representatives could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Sun Sakan, deputy governor of Preah Sihanouk province, said local authorities were simply executing the orders of the Supreme Court and had no say in the matter.

“I don’t know what compensation will be paid to the victims. We’ll let them discuss this with the owner of the land,” he said.

Hem Sophoan said villagers had been told they would not receive compensation, and were planning to file complaints against the developer.

“I have been living here since 1999 with permission from local authorities,” she said. “I did not grab anyone else’s land.”

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