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Official rejects NGO land claim

Official rejects NGO land claim

Photo by: Benjan Siavoshy
Moeun Heak (right) sheds tears as she bemoans the continued detention of her husband, who was arrested in January and sent to Siem Reap provincial court on suspicion of logging
illegally in a protected forest area. Protesters gathered at the court Thursday to demand that the man be released, saying the land in question was sold to them by a government official.

THE governor of a district in Preah Sihanouk province where farmers squared off with NGO workers over farmland earlier this week said Thursday that the group’s director had been unable to show sufficient documentation supporting its claim.

Kampong Seila district Governor Kheng Teng said he had ordered Touch Seouly of the Kampong Speu-based Cambodia Disabled Survivors’ Association to present documents proving he had been awarded contested land in Kampong Speu, Kampot and Preah Sihanouk provinces, and that a meeting was held Thursday.

“On the document, the [Kampong Speu] provincial authorities allow the development of land on about 1,500 hectares, some of which is in Preah Sihanouk province, but it is only signed by the Kampong Speu provincial governor,” he said.

“It must be signed by all three provincial governors,” he added.

However, Touch Seouly said Thursday he had shown a document to the district governor that proved he was allowed to create a collective land association on land in all three provinces, portions of which would be doled out to disabled former soldiers.

Police intervened to break up the standoff on Monday, though Touch Seouly said his staff would not allow the farmers in Preah Sihanouk province to approach the land again.

“I cannot accept the villagers’ request to plant crops on that land,” he said. “If they do not listen to us, more violence will happen.”

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