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Official shrugs off Mondulkiri land grab claim

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Indigenous people from Pou Tru village in Sen Monorom commune, O’Raing district, claimed that on May 8. Supplied

Official shrugs off Mondulkiri land grab claim

Mondulkiri provincial Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction director Mao Chamroeun has denied allegations he collaborated with a third party to steal land from indigenous people.

A complaint dated May 11 with the thumbprints of more than 30 indigenous people from Pou Tru village in Sen Monorom commune, O’Raing district, claimed that on May 8, Chamroeun threatened locals and forced residents to measure their land and cede it to a man named San Saut.

The villagers further claimed Chamroeun had threatened to take the land on which no residents had grown crops

“We denied that we do crop rotation and have land for burials and even offerings. So, [we] don’t allow the department director to decide to share land to San Saut. [The director] can’t just walk up and point to land arbitrarily,” the complaint read.

The residents said that having threatened them, Chamroeun led department officials and workers for Saut to measure the land and caused a dispute to the point of fighting. When residents gathered to protest they were stopped.

But Chamroeun told The Post on Sunday that he had not threatened to take the land, saying that a handful of people were using these indigenous people to smear his name.

Going down to measure the land was attributed to an advance agreement between a representative of the people named Thok Thai Aun.

He claimed the representative said the people wanted only the plantation land. They allowed him to coordinate the case with Saut to end the dispute.

“For me to negotiate with Saut I must have clear data on how many hectares of land the families have. Thai Aun, went to speak with the residents and agreed to fix a date to measure the land,” he said.

They divided duties and Thai Aun invited the residents to join her in measuring the land while he invited the local authorities, he said.

Neither Mondulkiri Provincial Hall spokesman Sok Sera, O’Raing district governor Siek Mony, nor Sen Monorom commune chief Thvan Trel could be reached for comment on Sunday.

Adhoc provincial coordinator Eang Mengly said that seeking a solution to the dispute has been going on for some time. Adhoc, an NGO, has observed that another party that has a dispute with the residents has sought an excuse to avoid a solution.

“I think that judicial jurisdiction has the right to decide which relevant officials or institutions should solve the dispute.

“But does the land management department have permission from the courts? If there is permission from the courts, it is a reasonable thing to figure out who is responsible,” he said.

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