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200 families dispute 4,000ha of land in Siem Reap

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Sixty out of 200 families in Varin district protest in front of Siem Reap Provincial Hall over a land dispute on August 12. SUPPLIED

200 families dispute 4,000ha of land in Siem Reap

The Siem Reap provincial administration said it was investigating a land dispute between more than 200 families and a group of eight people concerning 4,000ha of land in the Varin district. However, authorities have urged plaintiffs to pursue the case through the courts.

On August 12, more than 60 people representing the families gathered at the provincial hall to request intervention in the dispute by provincial authorities. The representatives claimed the group had filed a lawsuit against the families to take possession of their land and houses.

The lawsuit resulted in 11 people summoned before the court for questioning, including the village and commune chiefs on August 17.

Provincial deputy governor and spokesman Ly Samrith told The Post that authorities had received complaints from residents and authorities were investigating the case and collecting documents from involved parties.

“Right now, the dispute is with the court, but the province also has a duty to investigate the case. They have never filed a complaint with us and now it has reached the court,” he said.

According to Samrith, both parties have documents proving they occupy more than 4,000ha of land. But authorities have to investigate the case further, while both parties have to follow the court’s procedures.

Varin district governor Thinny Vithour told The Post that the district administration was preparing reports to be sent to the provincial level concerning the case.

“I cannot comment at this time because I am preparing documents for the provincial governor. I cannot comment before a decision is made by the governor,” he said.

Resident Keo Malay said she and more than 200 other families had depended on more than 2,000ha of the land in Sre Noy commune’s Dai Av village since 2004.

She said in 2020, a person named Excellency Kol Sokhom, director of the Association for the Relief of Disabled Veterans, Widows, Orphans and the Poor, and seven other people, had sued 10 people including the village chief and villagers for falsifying documents and selling other people’s land.

“They sued the village chief for encroaching on the association’s land which they claimed to have occupied in 2019. The land covers 4,000ha. But our village now has only about 2,000ha. I do not understand what they are doing, and I have never heard of this association,” she said.

The Post could not contact Kol Sokhom on August 16.

Dai Av village chief Krouch Sovannara, who was arraigned in court on August 17, said it was “extremely unfair” as eight individuals had sued him for forging documents and selling people’s property.

Sovannara said that the lawsuit came after Sokhom had asked him to transfer land titles through the ownership letters issued by the previous commune and village chiefs. But he refused because the land had been occupied since 2003 and 2004.

It was previously state land, but Sokhom claimed ownership through the letter issued in 2005 by former village and commune chiefs.

“I told her [Sokhom] that the land was given to villagers and all the children and grandchildren were born there. How could I do what they wanted?”

“I also wonder if they really had those land tiles. Why didn’t they come for the land long ago?” he said.

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