Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Preah Vihear protesters call for release of villagers

Preah Vihear protesters call for release of villagers

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Chea Kimseng speaks during a meeting at the Choam Ksan District Hall on Tuesday. CHOAM KSAN DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION

Preah Vihear protesters call for release of villagers

Some 100 villagers from Preah Vihear province on Monday protested at the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction, seeking a resolution to their long-running land dispute, as well as the release of 13 villagers who have been detained for alleged land grabbing.

Lay Ly Huor, a representative of the protesters, told The Post on Tuesday that the villagers have been locked in a land dispute with a private developer known as Metrei Pheap on the borders of Preah Vihear and Oddar Meanchey provinces.

“The court has summoned 25 villagers [for questioning]. So far it has charged and detained 13 people. I asked the ministry to have them released. We also asked to live on the disputed land pending a compromise,” he said.

Ly Huor said he is collecting thumbprints for a petition he intends to hand to the Ministry of Land Management and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Provincial environment department director Song Chansocheat said the 13 villagers have been placed in pre-trial detention since January 19 for allegedly clearing state forest and grabbing land owned by Metrei Pheap.

“They were arrested for encroaching on [the company’s] economic land concession and clearing forest for private ownership,” he said.

Choam Ksan district governor Chea Kimseng said authorities have been seeking a compromise to the long-standing land dispute between Metrei Pheap and the 300 villagers.

He said the district authority was still compiling a report for the higher authority to find a solution after surveying the disputed area.

“In 2017, more than 280 families who were involved in the land dispute with Metrei Pheap filed a lawsuit. As a local authority, we could only conduct a survey."

“We have finished surveying land for between 60 and 70 families. We can’t draw any conclusion yet. Some villagers claimed the forestland was theirs, but we can’t base our conclusion on crops, such as corn, on their land to prove that they actually own the land."

“The survey hasn’t been completed. Concerning their detention, I can only report to the provincial authority,” he said.

Provincial governor Un Chanda could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. Provincial court prosecutor Ty Sovinthal declined to comment, saying only that the villagers were detained on the same charges.

The prosecutor previously told The Post on January 22 that they were detained for encroaching on the protected area and charged with unspecified forestry crimes.

Lor Chann, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the detention of the 13 villagers could tarnish the government’s image and urged for a speedy resolution to the land dispute.

“It’s the provincial prosecutor’s right to charge them, but this is merely a land dispute, not an environmental crime. Why has the prosecutor pressed charges against only ordinary people? How about powerful military personnel who also have land in the area?"

“The government should review this case again and intervene to help local people in the area. If you let [military] generals do whatever they desire, the innocent people will get irritated,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • Police arrest Canadian with 167kg of drugs

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on November 15 placed a Canadian national in pre-trial detention in connection with smuggling and possessing 167kg of illegal drugs. Deputy National Police chief in charge of anti-drug enforcement Mak Chito told The Post on November 15 that the man was arrested