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Villagers take action in Kandal land fight

Villagers take action in Kandal land fight

A LONG-RUNNING land dispute in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district flared up again Sunday when 100 protesting villagers uprooted eight poles marking a tract of disputed lakeside property.

More than 1,000 families from the villages along Boeung Ampeach lake claim the stretch of shoreline as communal land and accuse local officials of breaking the law by selling it to a group of businessmen in 2005.

“We removed the poles because the land is still in dispute,” said villager Un Oeun.

“Ever since these villages were founded in the 1980s, the people of Prek Kampeus commune have caught fish, gathered lotus and otherwise earned a livelihood through the lake. It is here for the benefit of the people.”

Un Oeun also said that the property’s buyers were able to circumvent this problem because the 18.7 hectares they purchased had been under water until 2003, when part of the lake was filled in to support a new flood barrier.

Bun Theng, the former deputy governor of Kandal Stung district accused by villagers of arranging the sale, said that complaints about “businessmen” were being used to mask the true nature of the dispute.

“This is a dispute between people from five of the villages and the people from the sixth village, which happens to have seen more benefits from local business development,” he said.

“The authorities are only acting as intermediaries, but some resentful people have put the blame on us. We wish they would be honest and face up to what is really going on here.”

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