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ANA denies allegations it grabbed land to develop tourist attraction

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Protesters gather on the disputed land in Siem Reap province’s Banteay Srei district. Facebook

ANA denies allegations it grabbed land to develop tourist attraction

The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has denied allegations that it usurped land belonging to residents in Tani village of Banteay Srei district’s Run Ta Ek commune in order to create a tourist attraction.

Currently, 24 out of 38 of the families living in the affected area refuse to accept the settlement offered by ANA.

ANA spokesman Long Kosal said creating an eco-village tourist attraction in Tani village was a goal that had been set many years ago. He said ANA had not grabbed anyone’s land because the issue had already been mediated and resolved.

“No state institution encroached on residents’ land and ANA certainly has nothing to do with any land encroachment. But in order to reach an agreeable solution, we exchanged some land and we bought some land from the residents.

“This issue has already been addressed and resolved by the expert committee,” he said.

Kosal said the creation of the eco-village was intended to attract tourists to help the local people, but some of them were refusing to cooperate with the authorities and find ways to resolve their complaints.

“Some residents will not cooperate and will not comply with the law or stick to agreements they’ve made in the past. They continue to protest because some perpetrators with hidden motives are inciting them to do so,” he said without further elaboration.

Huon Ravuth acts as representative for the 24 families in Tani village who have not accepted the resolution offered by the authorities.

“Around 38 families denied ever selling their land and asked for a land swap, but the land offered in exchange wasn’t equal to the land they had to give up. Only 14 families agreed to this land swap as compensation and each of those families received a 20m by 30m plot. The remaining 24 families refuse to accept the offer,” Ravuth said.

Pun Pon, a 40-year-old resident of Tani village, said the 24 families holding out wanted 96ha of land in total for them to divide and share among themselves because they have farmed and occupied the land for many years. He said the share offered by the authorities was not enough and was distributed unequally because some families would get money and others would get plots of land of varying sizes.

“The authorities offered us plots sized 20m by 30m and we can’t accept that because it’s inappropriate [for farming]. It’s far too small, more like a burial plot to dig a grave.

“It won’t be enough when each family used to occupy many hectares of land here. How can we share it? Some families have dozens of members,” he said.

Sous Narin, provincial investigator for rights group Adhoc, said ANA should provide more land in that area to the affected people or offer them appropriate compensation.

“Clearing people’s land without compensation is a violation of land tenure, even though they do not have land titles.

“It’s understood that the village and commune authorities know and recognise where exactly the people’s land is in that area,” he said.

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