People from two villages in Sen Monorom commune, O’Raing district, in Mondulkiri province urged the authorities to prioritise a land dispute involving a former district council official who bought some plots but then allegedly proceeded to grab others belonging to people from nearby villages.

A victim in the dispute, Ras Nin who lives in Poutrou Krom village, claimed that in 2017, eight families in the village sold their 100m by 200m plots to San Sout, a former official of the O’Raing district council.

However, Nin claimed that Sout prepared legal documents claiming he purchased land measuring 100m by 2,000m instead.

He said the case also affected land in Poutrou Leu and Poutrou Krom villages which consist of 40 households. Some of the affected did not even sell the land to Sout, he said.

“After Sout bought the land, he demarcated hundreds of hectares claiming it belonged to him. When villagers built houses and farmed on their own land, Sout led about 100 people in 10 vehicles to remove the poles that villagers had planted to demarcate their land,” he said.

Nin said people from both villages had sought intervention from related authorities many times. However, no solution was forthcoming.

He said the villagers had complained to the Cambodian Human Rights Committee which led a team to meet with them after a villager filed a complaint last week. The villagers who own their land want to farm and live on it without fear, he said.

Lawyer San Sopha who represents the villagers in Poutrou Leu and Poutrou Krom told The Post on Monday that apart from stopping the villagers from living on their land, Sout had filed a complaint to the court to protect it, claiming he was the owner.

He said that in response to Sout’s request for legal action against the villagers, they filed the complaint to the Mondulkiri provincial court but it was rejected.

“In his legal action, Sout filed the complaint claiming he owned 170ha, but in reality, he grabbed around 400-500ha,” Sopha said.

He added that he has other evidence which proved the eight families who sold their land did not have legal documentation. The sale and purchase was not registered by the relevant authorities as there are no documents to that effect.

“There is just a letter transferring and receiving the land between brokers of 49ha,” he said.

Sout could not be contacted for comment on the allegations.

Sen Monorom commune chief Thvan Trel confirmed that some villagers had sold their plots to Sout. However, she is unsure how the deal was concluded as she was not the commune chief at the time.

“Some villagers didn’t sell their land and they want Sout to solve the problem and measure the land for them accurately. However, no one knows where he is and he cannot be reached,” she said.

Mondulkiri governor Sway Sam Eng and provincial hall spokesman Sok Sera could not be reached for comment.

However, Sam Eang told Fresh News on Monday that he and his officers would investigate the matter.

He said if the villagers’ claims were found to be true, the provincial administration will assist them immediately. The land that belonged to the state will be seized and any person found to have committed fraud would be punished under the law, he said.