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Pailin village chief is grilled over land grab in Battambang

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The land in Samlot district’s Santepheap commune was divided into smaller plots for sale. The Ministry of Environment

Pailin village chief is grilled over land grab in Battambang

The Battambang Provincial Court on Wednesday continued to question a village chief from Pailin province who was arrested for allegedly grabbing and selling state land located in a protected natural area.

Provincial court spokesman Heng Luy said Long Vuthy, the Phnom Tambang village chief in Pailin town’s O’Tavao commune, was sent to court on Monday.

He declined to provide further details. “The questioning is not yet finished,” he said.

Battambang provincial environment department director Kort Boran told The Post on Wednesday that police arrested Vuthy while he was hiding at a relative’s house in the province’s Sampov Loun district.

He said Vuthy was accused of forging documents to sell the land.

“The court is questioning Vuthy and other people who have been implicated in this case. We are searching for more evidence to ascertain the truth,” he said.

On Tuesday, he said, nearly 100 people from Pailin province who claimed to have bought the land from Vuthy gathered there to demand an explanation, but then agreed to leave after being told about the legality of the transaction.

The Ministry of Environment on Tuesday confirmed that Vuthy had illegally occupied the 49,600sqm state land in Samlot district’s Santepheap commune before dividing them into smaller plots for sale. It said the land is located in a natural area that is protected by a Royal Decree issued on November 1, 1993.

“Grabbing state land for private ownership is a criminal offence that can result in a prison sentence,” the ministry said in a statement.

Boran said the protesters, who had bought 60 plots from Vuthy, have now filed a complaint to the Pailin Provincial Court.


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