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Fifty houses bulldozed overnight as S’ville land dispute escalates

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The families claim they have been living on the land since 2002 with full ownership. Photo supplied

Fifty houses bulldozed overnight as S’ville land dispute escalates

Fifty families claiming ownership of 5ha in Koki village, Bit Traing commune, in Prey Nop district, Preah Sihanouk province, on Monday protested on the site over claims that Ouk Sineth and his associates illegally encroached on their land, bulldozing their homes and crops during the night.

Keo Chantha, a representative of the 50 families, told The Post on Monday while protesting at the site that residents demanded that Ouk Sineth and his companions come forward to settle the disputed land. However, no one turned up.

“Those in question are not coming forward to solve the problem. Instead, the people they rented our land to are fighting with us.

“There have been clashes, pushing backwards and forward. Some people threatened to hack us. If it had escalated further then it could have turned into a very dangerous situation,” she said.

Chantha said that all 50 families had submitted a letter of intervention to provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun at the provincial hall on February 16, but there had been no intervention as of Monday.

The people requested that Chamroeun helped return their land, stating that the 50 families have been living there since 2002.

The letter said: “In the first week of February, Ouk Sineth and his associates bulldozed the land at night. During the day they took the bulldozer out to deceive the villagers, leaving crops and 50 homes damaged.

“We would like to request the intervention of your excellency to find justice for us so that we can return to our land and the crops we rely on for our livelihood.

“All of us are suffering. Now powerful people have bulldozed crops and houses. So, your excellency, please help us, the 50 families, with justice.”

Provincial hall spokesman Kheang Phearum said on Monday that he had not obtained the letter yet. However, he said he would follow it up.

Prey Nop district governor Sar Kakada could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Koki village chief Sok Chan Dara said on Monday that the land in the disputed area is mostly forest cover and that the 50 families have yet to ask for intervention from the village and commune authorities.

“They are citizens whose data is not on the commune listings yet. Where and which provinces they are from is not known. They came to grab the land in 2017 and 2018 and have been living on it until now.

“Some people have built houses in the area and no action has been taken from the upper-level authorities yet,” he said.

Ouk Sineth and his associates’ could not be reached for comment on Monday.

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