The Kampong Chhnang provincial Fisheries Administration on Tuesday filed a provincial court petition asking it to return two tractors that had been seized from villagers by the Cholkiri military force while they were ploughing their farmland on Sunday.
Kampong Chhnang Fisheries Administration chief Ly La told The Post on Tuesday that the request to return the two tractors to the villagers had been made based on the result of an investigation by the Joint Commission of the Cholkiri district unified commission on Monday.
The investigation, he said, proved that villagers were farming land they had been harvesting for over 20 years and not illegal forest land that had been invaded in the past three years.
“Now that the joint commission has investigated the site where the incident occurred and found that it is indeed old farmland, we need to return the tractors. But we have to wait for the decision from the court since the case has already been handed over to the prosecution,” La said.
Ly Phallin, the deputy governor of Cholkiri district who led the committee looking into the land history at the location, told The Post that after having investigated and questioned farmers about the history of the land and based on the reasoning of the local authority, officials concluded that the farmland had been harvested since 1994.
“After having discovered the truth, we are very ashamed to have confiscated their tractors, not allowing them to plough while the rice cultivation in the early wet season is coming. Therefore, we have to hurry to get the letter to the court to request the tractors be returned to the villagers.”
The police force and the deputy military force of the Cholkiri district cooperated on Sunday in patrolling Peam Chhkork and encountered a group of people ploughing the field which the authority suspected was flooded forest land.
“In an attempt to protect the public interest of the state, the authority asked deputy prosecutor Long Sitha to temporarily detain the two tractors, but not the people, and wait for further investigation.
“After the temporary confiscation of the two tractors, we instructed the farmers that we would send the case to the fisheries administration,” said Ean Vanny, the district military commander.
He said the case is now out of his hands. “If the joint commission, which is comprised of all the specialised officials in the fisheries administration, discovers that it is old farmland and the court decides to give back the tractors, we will return them to the villagers immediately,” he said.
Sitha told The Post on Wednesday that he still hasn’t received a letter from the Fisheries Administration or the commission on the result of the investigation, and neither did they request to return the tractors to the villagers.
“I have not received any news or confirmation documents or any request to return the tractors. I will look into it when I receive the request,” Sitha said.