Over 100 people representing 140 families from the capital’s Por Sen Chey district are set to gather in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in Kandal province’s Takhmao town on Friday to seek his intervention in their long-standing land dispute with military personnel from the Kingdom’s Air Force.
The villagers from Prey Tea village, who had been protesting for several days to no avail, called for a speedy measurement of their land and an issuance of legal titles in accordance with a resolution approved by Minister of National Defence Tea Banh and the prime minister in February 2017.
Chea Sok, a representative of the families, told The Post that on February 2, 2017, Banh ceded 34,373sqm of land within the base of the Air Force’s Battalion 91 to a total of 121 families of soldiers and civilians who had been living in the base.
The defence minister also ceded 43,750sqm of land to another 35 families in Prey Tea village, with the remaining 14,263sqm allocated for the Air Force’s battalion and registered with the Ministry of National Defence.
Sok said while they were waiting for the Ministry of National Defence’s joint committee to measure their land, they heard from some families of the battalion’s personnel that the resolution had been annulled and that the committee would only measure land for the personnel’s families.
“The news worried us very much so we rallied to demand local authorities and the Ministry of National Defence to measure the land and issue titles for the 35 families in accordance with the resolution approved by Samdech Tea Banh in 2017,” he said.
Men Kim, another villager who joined the protest, told The Post that in 1987 the ministry’s air defence unit borrowed 9.3ha of land from the villagers to serve as a temporary base for the Air Force and promised to return the land should the villagers need it back.
“At the time, we trusted the army because we didn’t want a return of the Khmer Rouge. We were willing to loan the land to the army for use as a temporary base to protect Cambodians from the Khmer Rouge,” she said.
After the Kingdom achieved complete peace, she said the villagers requested a return of the land in 2002 so they could bestow the land to their married children. However, she claimed the army refused to follow through with their promise.
Since then, Kim said, they have held a series of protests, prompting the minister of national defence and Prime Minister Hun Sen to issue a resolution distributing the land to them in February. But the resolution, the 61-year-old said, had not been enforced.
“It’s only on paper. The villagers still haven’t received any portion of the land,” she said.
Ministry of National Defence spokesman Mao Phalla told The Post on Thursday that the ministry’s joint committee had already addressed the land dispute by measuring and distributing the land to some families of the army and residents.
“Actually, it’s some families of the army personnel that failed to collaborate with competent authorities in ending the land dispute. When our committee arrived to inspect the location for measurement, some of them were not present. That’s why the dispute dragged on,” he said.
“Some families of the army personnel and residents also have bad intention. They have already sold the land to others, but they joined the protest to demand a portion of the land from our committee,” he added.