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Soldier suing Oddar Meanchey villagers over land dispute

Community members involved in a land dispute display documents summonsing them to court in Oddar Meanchey province last week. Photo supplied
Community members involved in a land dispute display documents summonsing them to court in Oddar Meanchey province last week. Photo supplied

Soldier suing Oddar Meanchey villagers over land dispute

A military lieutenant is suing 13 families in Oddar Meanchey for allegedly farming his land, which lies within a protected community forest in Anlong Veng district, local authorities confirmed yesterday.

Four representatives from the 13 families appeared in court for questioning last Tuesday after lieutenant and district financial officer Van Limeng filed the complaint.

“The villagers were sued for affecting land [on] private property,” said provincial prosecutor Koy Kanya yesterday.

The O’Sophy Kiri Prey Srong community forest was established in 2004 to protect over 6,000 hectares of land, according to a report by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for human rights group Adhoc, said Limeng was granted 75 hectares of the community forest land by local authorities in 2012, and the current dispute has arisen because local villagers are farming on it.

“Why did the . . . authority grant a land title for him if it is a community forest? The court must investigate it clearly,” Naren said, adding Adhoc would also investigate the issue.

Oeun Nak, the community forest chief, said villagers are entitled to 5 hectares of land per family, but never formally requested this land and have farmed beyond that limit.

“The Ministry of Agriculture never [apportioned] the community forest land for anyone,” Nak said.

However, Lomtong Commune Chief Chorn Rak claimed some land was granted to villagers in 2012, but declined to comment further.

Limeng and local villagers could not be reached yesterday.

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