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Both sides threaten violence in land spat

Both sides threaten violence in land spat

REPRESENTATIVES of around 400 residents of Kampot, Preah Sihanouk and Kampong Speu provinces said Sunday that villagers are prepared for a standoff today with an NGO they say has made an illegitimate claim to their farmland, and that they will not shy away from violence.

Mou Savoeung, one of the representatives, said hundreds of families have been at loggerheads with the Cambodia Disabled Survivors’ Association over the land since 2000, but that they need to prepare to plant rice because the rainy season is approaching.

“Every year, if we didn’t use violence against the NGO then we wouldn’t be able to farm,” she said. “I am afraid there will be more violence because the NGO will come to ban us.”

Touch Seouly, director of the Kampong Speu-based NGO, said local officials had given it ownership of the 1,654 hectares of disputed land in the three provinces, and that the farmers would not be able to plant rice this year.

“If they use knives, we will use knives back. If they use rocks, we will use rocks back. And if they use guns, we will use guns back,” he said.

Ouch Leng, land programme officer for the rights group Adhoc, said violence had broken out between the farmers and representatives of the NGO on multiple occasions in recent years.

Officials in Kampong Speu province, where most of the land is located, could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

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