Farmers and the authorities in Svay Rompear commune, Kampong Leng district, Kampong Chhnang province said they would continue to seek court permission to recover five tractors that authorities had impounded on March 26, after a committee had investigated and acknowledged that the rice fields the locals were ploughing were old land that they had been farming since 1989.
Lvea village chief Nin Ngun said the court had released five villagers that Kampong Chhnang provincial military police detained while they were driving tractors to plough the rice fields at Talat village, Svay Rompear.
The Kampong Chhnang Provincial Court released them on April 9 after intervention from the provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun.
“District authorities acknowledged that the rice fields in that area are those we have depended on since 1989. We did not just occupy them recently. This acknowledgement gives justice to us farmers who depend on the rice fields for our farming which supports our livelihood,” Ngun said.
Talat village representative Suth Seunh said releasing the five villagers was not enough and authorities must also give back the tractors.
“We requested intervention from the provincial court to urge the military police to give back the five tractors so the farmers can plough the land before the rainy season’s arrival,” he said.
Provincial authorities on April 13 checked and evaluated the location that the military police claimed was occupied land.
After the inspection and having listened to explanations from 200 families on the history of the rice fields in the location and getting statements from the village, commune and district authorities, the committee decided to allow the villagers to continue farming as long as they don’t rent the land or attempt to sell it, Ngun said.
Kampong Chhnang provincial Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries director Ngin Hun told The Post on Tuesday that according to the inspection and acknowledgement from local authorities about the history of the land, it was confirmed that the villagers have depended on it since 1989.
Therefore, the committee acknowledged that the rice fields have always been farmed by them.
“According to the law, if farmers depended on the land for a long time, sub-decree 1044 states they can continue to depend on the land but not sell it or occupy new land,” Hun said.
Kampong Chhnang provincial Department of Justice director Hang Socheat said he maintains his claim that the location was flooded forest that was newly occupied.
He said that during 1987, while he was a soldier, the land was flooded forest and his forces used to fight against the Khmer Rouge there. From 1990 to 1991 his forces again fought against the Khmer Rouge at the location.
“I swear that the region was flooded forest and no one did any farming there. I was surprised when villagers and authorities claimed that they did farming in this area since 1989. I have reported this case to the national level,” he said.