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Court calls two villagers in land fight

Court calls two villagers in land fight

Preash Sihanouk provincial court summoned two residents of Kampong Seila district for questioning yesterday in connection with a land dispute involving the Mong Reththy Group and 42 families.

The company has accused the two villagers, from Stung Chhay Khang Cheung village in Stung Chhay commune, of violating company land and faking thumbprints.

Locals have said the company cleared longstanding farmland in Stung Chhay Khang Cheung village for a palm oil plantation without offering compensation, and have lodged complaints to local authorities.

“They have not resolved my issue yet suddenly I was summoned by the court,” resident Meas Sy said yesterday.

Tann Mengsroy, an attorney for the Mong Reththy Group, wrote in a letter dated January 26 and made public yesterday that the local families have no legal claim to the 816 hectares of disputed land.

Families said local authorities had granted them the land but never issued land titles.

“The company has cleared into people’s crops. We have complained about the clearance and the violation of people’s land, but the company has accused me of violating the company’s land,” Meas Sy said.

Mok Sophal, another local resident, said the company had destroyed crops on 11 hectares of his farmland, two hectares of which were granted to him by local authorities in 2000.

Local officials have given varying accounts.

Mom Sam Oeun, the deputy chief of Stung Chhay commune,  wrote in a January 24 letter, also made public yesterday, that local villagers “do not own the land and houses on the 816 hectares of land”.

Heng Hoeun, Stung Chhay commune chief, said however that authorities had distributed land to local families.

“I let the village chief distribute ... two hectares of land for each family,” Heng Hoeun said. “There was no land title because that land is a land concession.”

He said families had already sold their land to the company.

Heng Hoeun added that the Mong Reththy Group had affected farmland in its clearance efforts, but said there was no significant damage.

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