Thirty villagers from Banteay Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district came to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in the capital yesterday to deliver a petition concerning a decade-long land dispute.
Representative Keat Kith said officials from the Banteay Meanchey provincial hall had grabbed 113 hectares of land from more than 50 families since 2002 and, in turn, sold it off to land merchants without the villagers’ consent.
Keat Kith accused several officials in particular of stealing land, including provincial chief of land management Or Narath and former Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Sar Chamrong.
“The local authorities conspired with local officers, starting with the provincial, then at the district level.
“They invaded and grabbed villagers’ land. They have threatened and prohibited the people from entering the land for agriculture or planting,” he said, adding that excavators had ruined the farmland.
Prin Chhaem, 42, of O’Chrou’s O’Beichoan commune, said that for the past 10 years, authorities in the area had done nothing to help the villagers and that, because of the substantial amount of time they had been off their farmland, many villagers had been forced to cross the border illegally to seek work in Thailand.
Sar Chamrong said yesterday he was in no way involved in the conflict and claimed there had been no land dispute in the area during his term in office, as the villagers alleged.
“The villagers argued with each other because they were provoked by outsiders,” the former deputy governor said, without providing more detail.
Banteay Meanchey’s current governor, Oung Oeun, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
To contact the reporter on this story: Kim Yuthana at firstname.lastname@example.org