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Officials to assess prison ‘land grab’

Officials to assess prison ‘land grab’

PURSAT provincial officials yesterday began measuring property that allegedly belongs to 27 families from two villages in Phnom Kravanh district who say that a new correctional facility has eaten into their farmland.

Last month, villagers said that a new agricultural prison, Correctional Centre 4, had encroached on 78.5 hectares of their farmland.

Hin Sophal, the director of CC4, said yesterday that a sub-committee including the district governor had been tasked with measuring the land to determine how much villagers had lost, but that they did not yet know the results.

He said 190 hectares of land had already been provided as compensation to 60 families affected by the project.

“I really don’t understand why there are still 27 more families [affected],” he said. He said that the sub-committee was scheduled to finish its work by today.

CC4, which opened last year but is in the process of expanding, operates vocational agricultural training and rehabilitation programmes for inmates.

Toch Sambo, Phnom Kravanh district governor, said the villagers accused the prison of annexing their land, but that they had cleared the land and occupied it illegally.

Nonetheless, he said, the subcommittee visited the area to determine whether the families had the right to claim compensation. “The 27 families are newcomers, but we tried to find a resolution for them,” he said. “We have to find out if they have documents to show us or not.”

Nov Pheoun, a representative of the 27 families, said he had planted crops in the affected area since 1998, and that authorities had recognised him as a legal occupant of the land.

“I don’t understand why they accused me of being a newcomer. I have to ask the sub-committee to allow me to plant rice. I need to plant rice to support my family’s life,” he said.

Soeung Senkaruna, provincial monitor for the rights group Licadho, also said some of the villagers had been living on the site there since 1998, and that authorities needed to compensate them.

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