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Police block villagers amid protest to seek land dispute solution

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More than 800 villagers from Kratie province rally in Phnom Penh to seek land dispute solutions. Heng Chivoan

Police block villagers amid protest to seek land dispute solution

A woman fainted on Wednesday following a confrontation with police while she and 800 other protesters were marching to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s residence in the capital to deliver a petition.

The protesters were among 1,642 families who have been locked in a long-running land dispute with a Vietnamese-owned rubber plantation in Kratie province’s Snuol district.

The 800 protesters were marching from Samakki Raingsey pagoda in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district to Hun Sen’s residence in the vicinity of the Independence Monument when they encountered police near the Vietnamese embassy.

Police said they stopped the protesters because they were “causing social disorder”.

Touch Dol, a representative of the 1,642 families in Snuol district’s Pi Tnou communes, said the villagers had no choice but to seek Hun Sen’s intervention in the land dispute. He said the villagers would not return home until they had a solution.

Dol said the villagers are worried about being evicted from their land after Memot Rubber Plantation Co Ltd received an economic land concession from the government.

The villagers have requested 2.5ha for each family and a clear boundary of the disputed land.

After the protest, Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Minister Chea Sophara met with 35 representatives of the protesters and promised a solution for them.

“The protesters confirmed they had indeed cleared the land that had been given as a concession to Memot Rubber Plantation Co Ltd because they need land to cultivate."

“They agreed to return home and continue to work with the Kratie provincial authority to quickly identify people who owned the land. They also agreed to accept the land size and location provided to them by the authority,” the ministry said in a statement following the meeting.

It said villagers who do not actually own land in the area would need to submit a petition through the relevant authorities for an economic land concession.

Rights group Adhoc spokesperson Soeung Sen Karona said villagers have the right to protest. He urged the authorities to seek a speedy solution for them.

“Although there’s no solution yet, the minister would use his high position to find a solution for them. I am very hopeful,” he said.

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