Some 130 families in Preah Sihanouk province yesterday requested the intervention of provincial authorities to solve a dispute with their deputy village chief over the construction of a small bridge in their town yesterday.
A petition dated Wednesday from villagers representing the families in Commune 1’s Village 1 accuses Deputy Village Chief Lem Sam Eoun of demanding $100,000 to permit the construction of a 19-metre-long, 4-metre-
wide concrete bridge over a canal, in order to connect local families to the nearby national road.
Villager representative Sun Mom, 57, said that on Monday morning residents began construction on the bridge, for which they pooled money together, when Sam Eoun intervened and threatened them with arrest because he claimed ownership of the land.
Villager Paen Tea said that Sam Eoun had begun building fencing to block construction. Reached yesterday, Sam Eoun admitted to demanding payment and blocking construction because he owned and paid for the road the bridge would connect to, which sat on his land.
He alleged that Sun Mom – not the villagers – had paid for the bridge, as she is a developer who owns land on the other side of the canal from his property.
“She has never negotiated with me and asked to use my road, but secretly she sent the workers to . . . build the bridge on my land with the pretext that the villagers need the bridge, and my road would be used publicly with no payment at all to me, the owner of the land,” he said.
Cham Sokhum, the village chief, said he thinks Sam Eeun should donate his road “for the people’s interest”, seeing as Sun Mom had contributed to building the bridge, which would shorten the route to the national road from three kilometres to just 500 metres.
The chief of Commune 1, Chhit Sophat, said that after two unsuccessful mediation attempts he had no choice but to pass the case to provincial authorities, who could not be reached.