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Preah Vihear villagers protest soldiers

Preah Vihear villagers protest soldiers

Villagers who allege authorities and armed forces in Preah Vihear province have been burning their houses and clearing farmland of 400 families, to create a social land concession, protested yesterday, calling on intervention from Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The 5,557-hectare SLC in Kulen district’s Srayang village is supposed to house the families of 160 disabled soldiers, government sources say.

Representatives of the 200 villagers protesting said they had lived on 2,000 of those hectares since 2002, when they received written commune council recognition that they were farming the area but no formal land titles.

Weeping, 63-year-old Sam Sour described how soldiers started coming to Srayang in July of last year, threatening villagers and then destroying their property without offering any compensation.

“After I refused to move my house, they threatened to burn it down. Eight days later, when I returned home, my plantation, my house were burned down. Nothing was left,” she said.

Leng Mun, 52, said the fact that her husband and two children were soldiers currently serving on the Prey Vihear border did not stop members of the armed forces from destroying everything she had.

“I pleaded with them to wait for my husband to come, but they would not listen,” she said.

In response to the complaints, officials from the prime minister’s cabinet and the Council of Ministers have agreed to visit the commune next Thursday to find a solution.

Lim Leang, deputy chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet, said he had consulted with Preah Vihear Provincial Governor Oum Mara and agreed to make land titles for the villagers, though no clear data existed for their claims.

“Villager are occupying and farming on government land, but the state will cut [land] for all of you, but please do not grab new land,” he said, adding that those with no existing claim could apply for an SLC.

Kulen Governor Chum Puy denied soldiers had destroyed villagers’ property and vowed to grant them land titles, but only after six ELCs were measured for private companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phak Seangly at [email protected]