ABOUT 80 families from O'Tres commune, in Preah Sihanouk province’s Stung Hav district, held a brief protest at the city’s new Freedom Park yesterday, requesting official intervention in a land dispute with a local company.
Villagers claim military police surrounded the community following a Supreme Court ruling on Friday, which handed the land to the Ly Hong Sin Company, a local developer.
Mon Sina, a village representative, said the residents travelled to the capital because local authorities had shown no desire to address their concerns.
He said the land ceded by the Supreme Court lay in commune 1, which lies inside Sihanoukville town, but that military police were instead deployed in neighbouring Outreng.
After spending more than an hour at the Freedom Park without any visits from the authorities, the protesters then gathered in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s villa near the Independence Monument.
The villagers claim that 149 families have been living on the 20-hectare plot of land since 1999, and had documents acknowledging their ownership. After military police began enforcing the Supreme Court’s verdict on Friday, clearing 78 homes from the land, they allegedly forced residents to register each time they entered or exited the land.
“We made an appointment to meet at the Freedom Park, aiming to show our grievances, because it is very unjust for us,” said Lou Vannaret, another of the affected villagers.
Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Sun Sakhorn said the authorities were just implementing the Supreme Court’s verdict.
“The verdict said the loser must leave. So we didn’t allow them to access the land,” he said.
Hun Sen’s deputy cabinet chief Lim Leangse could not be reached yesterday.