Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Senior official accused of land grab

Senior official accused of land grab

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sok Sovann Vatana Sabung. Supplied

Senior official accused of land grab

A member of the Supreme Consultation Forum is set to forward to Prime Minister Hun Sen, the complaints of more than 1,000 families against a military lieutenant general over alleged land grabbing in Kampong Thom province’s Stoung district.

Sok Sovann Vatana Sabung, who is also president of the Khmer Rise Party said the families from nine villages in Chamna Leu commune accused Lieutenant General Koam Saroeun of grabbing two public basins for his own business.

Vatana Sabung said he would send the complaint, the second he had received from the villagers to Hun Sen on Tuesday.

The complaint alleged that Saroeun had forced villagers to pay for water from the basins despite a government directive against it.

Vatana Sabung said a commune council member from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, whom the villagers chose as their representative, had been placed in detention after the lieutenant general filed a complaint to the provincial court.

“We have compiled a report to be sent to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In the meantime, the Supreme Consultation Forum is working to identify those who have colluded [with Saroeun] and are finding more proof to be included in the report to the top leader,” he said.

Saroeun could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Phat Thach, who manages business operations at the basins, told The Post that Saroeun had received a permit from authorities to charge each family 750,000 riel ($187.50) per year after spending his own money to rebuild the basins.

He rejected claims of extortion, saying most families had agreed to pay for water from the basins to irrigate their crops. He said that only a few families had rebuffed the agreement since it was allegedly made.

“We have already filed a complaint to the court. Their allegation that Saroeun had built the basins on state land is completely false. Only a few of the over 1,000 families are unhappy with the agreement and submitted thumbprints for a complaint against Saroeun,” he said.

Provincial governor Sok Lou said the provincial authorities were not involved in the case.

“A national working group had previously solved the case already, but a few families are not happy with the solution. We cannot say who’s right or wrong. The KRP will submit its report to the prime minister, and we also have our own reports to be sent to the top leadership,” he said.

Former Chamna Leu commune chief Loch Bunthort said the two basins were legally built in 2007 by investors to supply water for farming to villagers. He said most residents had agreed to pay for the water.

However, the provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, Sok Ratha, said the water supply agreement was annulled in 2014 by a government directive, which said the two basins were for collective use in the communities.

The dispute erupted again the following year when Saroeun claimed to have received a new permit to charge villagers for using water from the basin. The dispute led to a protest and subsequent arrest of Thai Then, the commune council member.

Ratha wants the authorities to find an acceptable solution for the victims and especially Then, who was arrested without a fair reason and should be released as soon as possible.

“We do not know what solution the authorities had that led to people holding protests again and again. If the authorities followed the government directive, this conflict might have ended. But it is crucial to know why there is still a trader managing the two basin areas,” said Ratha.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon