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Villagers, soldiers tussle over land

Villagers from Chum Kiri commune in Banteay Meanchey province appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday to intervene in a land dispute concerning roughly 30 hectares of land they say was taken by district soldiers.

Doeu Chay, a representative of 25 local families, said that land located in Chum Kiri district was grabbed by a group of soldiers from the 12th Military Artillery Regiment on March 30.

Chay added that villagers had collected thumbprints and filed complaints to local and provincial authorities, as well as rights groups Adhoc and Licahdo, but have been unable to resolve their claim. The villagers, he said, have owned the land since 1980.

“Now we are very concerned about our living and our lives in our homeland,” Chay said, adding that soldiers barred villagers from trying to plant on the land last week.

Sum Chankea, a provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said his organisation had facilitated a meeting between village representatives and the provincial governor, adding that the governor had promised to intervene.

Brigadier General Lay Dara, deputy commander of the 12th Military Artillery Regiment, said the land has belonged to his soldiers since 1980, and that 32 hectares were registered as state property with the Ministry of National Defence in 1993.

“The villagers have stolen our soldiers’ land and produced a fake title,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at reaksmeykongkea.buth@phnompenhpost.com

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