Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Mondulkiri families seek help in land row vs ‘powerful officer’

Mondulkiri families seek help in land row vs ‘powerful officer’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Villagers protest land grab in Mondulkiri province on Monday. Kreung Tola

Mondulkiri families seek help in land row vs ‘powerful officer’

Nearly 200 families of Andong Kraloeng village in Mondulkiri province are calling on authorities to prevent further clearing of land in the community by a powerful policeman known as Thang Rithy. However, land clearing activities continue despite the community and authorities trying to stop them.

According to community head Soka Thot, 51ha of land has been cleared of which 12ha is community land. Rithy has claimed that he has legal rights to fence the land and take nearly 40ha of it. Residents say that this land was always natural forestland.

Sokha Thot told The Post March 9 that the person who had set up the fence around the 40ha of land is Thang Rithy – a powerful police officer in Mondulkiri, Ratanakkiri, and Stung Treng provinces.

He added that at first this person and his associates had cleared 51ha of land in 2020 and set up a boundary fence. Following this, the community had banned activities and filed a complaint to the provincial court requesting a halt to them in order to determine land ownership and whether there had been any encroachment on community land.

“There has been clearing since 2020 and on February 28, we patrolled the land and saw that they started clearing again. Then on March 4, we tried to stop it, but [they] wouldn’t stop. The commune chief told [them] to stop but they did not listen,” he said.

According to Sokha Thot, the land has more than 1,000ha and demarcation had been recognised by relevant ministries in 2017. The community was established in 2007 and has nearly 200 families.

The Post could not reach Thang Rithy for comment.

Thvan Trel, commune chief of Sen Monorom of O’Raing district in the province, said on March 9 that after reports from the community about the clearing, the authorities immediately went to the scene. As clearing land has continued, she said that she will send a letter of complaint to the provincial department of land management, urban planning and construction, and other relevant departments to immediately resolve the issue.

However, there is no document yet and she is still waiting for inspection and measurement by officers.

“We will propose to [relevant department] to come measure and inspect the area to know if it affects community or sanctuary land. I am also not sure if we will [submit] the letter soon,” she said.

Local authority Thvan Trel said that regarding the issue, it is not clear yet whether this person has a legal right to occupy it. However, she just knows that the person has previously bought land from villagers.

She said: “I am not sure about how Rithy came to clear land but there were people from the community who sold it to him. If not, he would not just simply take it, right? As for buying and selling, I have not seen any documents yet. I do not dare to conclude anything but will wait for everybody to register first because I have never met the person [Thang Rithy].”

Kreung Tola, a coordinator for the provincial Indigenous People Network said on March 9 that the case was abuse of power because minor authorities wouldn’t dare come and try to solve the problem of land being cleared.

“This is abuse of power and breaks the law,” he said.

Mondulkiri deputy governor and provincial hall spokesman Cheak Mengheang confirmed that he had not yet received details about the case. However, he claimed that he would send a team to investigate it in the future.

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Walmart plans to diversify stock of Cambodia goods

    Walmart Inc, the world’s biggest retailer, on June 22 reiterated recent plans to scale up and greatly diversify its purchases of Cambodian products, according to the labour ministry. This came during a virtual working meeting between Minister of Labour and Vocational Training Ith Samheng and

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Cotton club growing in Battambang

    The global market for “vegan leather” – materials that act as alternatives to traditional leather that can be synthesised from cork, apple peels, cactus, recycled plastic, grape pomace and pineapple leaves, among other things, and supposedly require no chemicals or water to produce – is expected to