OFFICIALS in Battambang province’s Samlot district met yesterday with local military officers to ask that around 20 families be allowed to resume farming on land that in recent months has been the subject of a violent dispute.
Deputy district governor In Savrith said that officers from Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Military Region 5 had allowed 21 families to resume cultivating their crops yesterday, though a final agreement would not be reached until later this week.
“I don’t think there will be a problem because Military Region 5 has already agreed to accept the return of another group of farmers,” he said.
On July 8, 58 families were given permission to resume farming on a 390-hectare plot in Samlot’s Kampong Lpov commune.
A total of 78 families claim that they have farmed the land since 2005, and that since 2009 soldiers from Military Region 5 have been trying to force them off the land.
The dispute came to a head on July 1 when 10 soldiers opened fire on a group of 60 farmers planting corn in the area. Although none of the farmers were hit by bullets, two were later injured when soldiers reportedly beat people who refused to stop farming.
In Savrith said yesterday that villagers had the right to plant crops on the land because they had farmed it for several years.
He said that any decisions made on land titles were “up to the government because it is forest land”.
Khieu Nak, 45, a villager from Kampong Lpov commune, said that her husband had been able to tend to his crops yesterday for the first time since
the shooting incident.
“We are not afraid that the military will open fire on us again because they said they will allow us to plant our crops again,” she said.
Meanwhile, Tuy Bunly, deputy commander of Military Region 5, said yesterday that the situation was still “complicated”.
“Villagers have made overlapping claims in some areas, so I would like to ask the district governor to make clear for us which villagers have the right to get that land,” he said.