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Mondulkiri villagers take land cases to court

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Four indigenous plaintiffs filed a complaint at the Mondulkiri Provincial Court on Monday. Supplied

Mondulkiri villagers take land cases to court

A series of land complaints were filed with the Mondulkiri Provincial Court on Monday by residents of Lames and Pou Lu villages who claim two community leaders stole land to sell.

The four indigenous plaintiffs also filed a complaint against an environment official for not preventing the offences and against a couple – Kek Than and his wife Oeu – for land grabbing offences.

According to court filings, Bou Sra community director Toy Pak and member Den Kruoy cleared 2-3ha in the villages in 2014, while from 2019-2020, he allegedly encroached on more than 10ha to sell to people outside the community. They also installed a boundary on another 50ha.

“Land encroachment in the communities has been done at different areas which are 1km from the Tuol Svay environment office, but officials failed to act,” the complaint said.

This year, Than and Oeu allegedly stole the land and threatened Lames villagers with a cleaver to stop them from growing rice.

Mondulkiri forest activist Kroeung Tola told The Post that land in Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary is joint land between Lames and Pou Lu villages.

“The condition of community land is for the use of residents. It is not allowed to be sold to anyone. These people clear forest to sell and we cannot forgive them,” said Tola.

People in Lames and Pou Lu villages are asking the court to take back the land and make offenders compensate them for the price of the forest and fine them according to the law.

The Post could not reach Pak or Kruoy for comment.

Nam Lear Wildlife Sanctuary director Vuth Sarom said environment officials fulfil their roles in protecting this area. “They have the right to file a complaint. We have always fulfilled our duties,” said Sarom.

However, he said opportunists claiming to be area residents are logging even after the government declared it would give land to citizens in protected areas.

Eang Mengly, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc said forest offenders must receive punishment even if they are officials or rich.

“If the case is real, the court and authorities must have evidence of the offences the people of Lames and Pou Lu villages claim to have been committed,” Mengly said.

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