Some 150 families from Otres commune in Preah Sihanouk’s Stung Hav district have asked the authorities to lend them a hand after a local businesswoman allegedly ordered their crops to be cleared.
Villager Nget Chanthou said the businesswoman, whom she identified as Hem Sovannary, has accused the families of living on more than 100 hectares of her property, but villagers say they have been there since 1986. Workers for Sovannary started clearing the crops a few days ago, according to Chanthou.
“Now they clear one hectare of the villagers’ plantations. They clear by chainsaw and then burn it,” Chanthou said.
Another villager, Koe Leng, said her community is “angry” with Sovannary. “Why does she have the right to clear our plantation?”
Cheap Sotheary, a local coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the dispute is still being decided in court, so destroying the crops is “illegal”.
“They ordered 21 workers to clear the villagers’ plantations, such as mango, orange, et cetera,” Sotheary said. “It looks like [they want] to eliminate the proof.”
Provincial Governor Chhin Sokhun said he has ordered local authorities to stop the clearing.
“I ordered them to stop their activity and await the court’s decision.”