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Four arrested as land dispute rumbles on

Police officials speak to villagers on Saturday about the land dispute in Preah Vihear’s Srayorng Tbong village.
Police officials speak to villagers on Saturday about the land dispute in Preah Vihear’s Srayorng Tbong village. Photo supplied

Four arrested as land dispute rumbles on

Four men were charged and sent to Preah Vihear Provincial Prison on Saturday for allegedly cultivating more than 100,000 square metres of land at the centre of a messy three-party land dispute.

Phy Sithorng, deputy provincial prosecutor, said six villagers from six families were arrested in Srayorng Tbong village, in Kulen district’s Srayorng commune, after Siem Reap resident Suon Chantrea complained to local authorities.

“Six villagers were charged with two cases of intentional damage and stealing,” Sithorng said, adding that two were released because they were women and one was “old”.

Villager Ouk Sreyoun said she was arrested alongside six others, including her mother, Meng Ratana, and her uncle, Meng Vanna, who were released with her. She identified the others as Ou Kuon, 60, Neng Seiha, 28, Ey Sasen, 35, and In Run, 52.

She said they had cleared about 2 hectares since 2012 to cultivate and live on, but that a man called Sam Touch later claimed the land, in addition to a nearby 200-metre-by-500-metre field that authorities had recognised as his in 2003. She said Chantrea claimed authorities had recognised her ownership since 2008.

“We ran out of rice to eat, so we harvested the rice, but we were arrested,” Sreyoun said. “It is unfair for all of us.”

District Governor Pang Yiet said provincial authorities had issued a letter to classify the land as state property, and that in any case Touch’s land wasn’t in the disputed area. “It is a very complicated case. No one has the right to use it yet,” he said.

A court spokesperson could not be reached, and contact information for Touch and Chantrea could not be found.

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