RESIDENTS of Kampot province’s Chumkiri district filed a complaint in provincial court on Wednesday against members of an army unit they say are encroaching on their land and cutting down their fruit trees, escalating a standoff that began in 2001.
Man Nang, 39, one of the people who filed the complaint, said four Royal Cambodian Armed Forces soldiers visited her village in Chres commune on Monday to cut down mango, coconut and guava trees, adding that the soldiers “threatened to rape and kill me if I am stubborn with them”. She said the soldiers all belonged to the same unit.
The court complaint comes less than one week after Prime Minister Hun Sen warned top military officials to refrain from participating in illegal land-grabbing operations.
“It is time to stop every activity involving illegal business or the support of illegal business. [I] don’t care how many stars or moons you have – I will fire you, and nobody will keep corrupt commanders in their seats,” Hun Sen said at the end of a conference on military reform at the Ministry of Defence last week. “In Cambodia, the prime minister directly controls the troops.”
Members of the military unit identified by Mam Nang as having threatened the villagers in Chres commune on Monday could not be reached for comment, nor could Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Defence Ministry.
Mam Nang said the military unit had been trying to encroach on land belonging to 300 families in Chres commune since as early as 2001, but that the threats had stopped in 2006 and did not resume until this week.
She added that a complaint had also been filed with Ou Yoeun, the chief of Chres commune, who said he had long been familiar with the case.
“The reason that armed forces come to cut down the villagers’ trees is because their former commander gave them land that overlapped with the villagers’ land,” he said.