Hundreds of villagers from Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces called on authorities to resolve a long-standing land dispute yesterday at a forum hosted by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
During the forum, held in Battambang province’s Bavel district, the crowd of about 500 villagers criticised a decision by Battambang provincial judge Saoeun Kosalmony in February to grant 638 hectares of land in Bavel district and Beanteay Meanchey province’s Malai district to Song Thorng and his two associates, Tun Buntheoun and Khun Tesy.
The three businessmen had originally grabbed the villagers’ land in 2006, excavating the area to make way for a development, villagers said. Later that year, provincial authorities deemed the land state property.
San Samneang, village representative from Malai district’s Takong commune, said villagers had lived on the land since 2002.
Ham Mony, a member of the provincial council that spoke at the forum, told villagers to keep farming on the land, since the court had yet to implement its February decision.
Provincial authorities needed to clarify the situation with the courts, he added.
Reached by phone yesterday, judge Saoeun Kosalmony said his decision was “just an initial action” and villagers could appeal. Song Thorng could not be reached for comment.