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Villagers petition authorities to prevent land loss to Vietnam

A GROUP of villagers from Chantrea district in Svay Rieng province has lodged a complaint with provincial authorities on Monday, calling on them to intervene in blocking Vietnamese officials from planting border markers that encroach on their land.

Meas Srey, a villager in Chantrea district’s Samrong commune, said Thursday that she had lost a hectare of rice field to Vietnamese incursions, and that 35 villagers have already filed complaints to Svay Rieng provincial Governor Cheang Am to help prevent what villagers claim is a gradual Vietnamese encroachment onto their land.

She said the coming and going of Vietnamese and Cambodian border officials had raised villagers’ concerns.

“I saw them come to take measurements a few days ago. They come often: One day a Khmer comes, one day a Vietnamese comes,” Meas Srey said. “I have concern about losing my land, so we filed a complaint.”

She said the government did not think about the threat from the eastern border, despite recent tension on the western border with Thailand.

Pov Pheap, deputy chief of Samrong commune, said that since opposition leader Sam Rainsy joined villagers and other Sam Rainsy Party officials in uprooting six poles close to the Vietnamese frontier on October 25, Cambodian and Vietnamese authorities had both made trips to the area to calm villagers’ fears that the posts were official border markers.

“The border committee went to take measurements recently and said that those poles, which are used for border demarcation, are just temporary markers,” he said. “That’s why the people filed complaint beforehand, in case they plant official poles that cause them to lose their land.”

Svay Rieng provincial Governor Cheang Am could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

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