Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - RCAF land grab is alleged

RCAF land grab is alleged

RCAF land grab is alleged

Villagers in Oddar Meanchey’s Trapaing Prasat district filed a complaint with rights group Adhoc alleging a military official is using armed forces to claim 90 hectares of their land.

In their complaint filed with Adhoc earlier this month, the 13 families who claim ownership of the land said soldiers have destroyed property and intimidated villagers ever since Nak Sokha – deputy commander of Brigade 6 of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces – claimed ownership, Mang Lihuo, 33 said.

Lihuo also filed a separate complaint and lawsuit against soldiers who allegedly de­stroyed a hectare of his cassava plantation.

“They vandalised my property,” said Lihuo, naming Trapaing Prasat military deputy commander Seng San as the leader of a group of soldiers who had sprayed chemicals on his crops. “I demand $2,000 from them and ask the court to imprison them.”

Lihuo bought five hectares of land there for $2,000 about five years ago, he said.

Nak Sokha and Sen San could not be reached by the Post.

Student land-measuring volunteers had already confirmed the 90 hectares belonged to the 13 families last August, Adhoc provincial coordinator Srey Naren said. But as residents waited for their land titles, the provincial Department of Land Management listed several of Sokha’s relatives in Phnom Penh and Battambang province as the landowners. Lihuo believes Sokha complained to land management officials, asking them not to distribute the land titles, he said.

“There has been a bribe,” Lihuo said. “Why else would the students measure the land for us, but our names were replaced by others?”

Villagers approached Adhoc with their predicament after complaints they filed with government authorities went unanswered.

After Adhoc’s investigatory visit on Tuesday, Lihuo said, soldiers continued their alleged campaign of coercion.

“When Adhoc left the land, a group of eight solders with an assault rifle appeared, threatening to shoot and jail any villagers who dare to step on the land,” Lihuo said.

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