LAWMAKERS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party have sent a letter to the National Assembly requesting that Prime Minister Hun Sen come to the aid of villagers in Takeo province who say that demarcation efforts along the Vietnamese border are threatening their farmland.
In May, residents of Takeo’s Borei Cholsa district complained that new border markers had been planted on their farmland, and that district officials had prevented them from inspecting the markers or protesting against them.
On June 3, 20 SRP parliamentarians and around 100 supporters attempted to visit the site, but were blocked by around 30 provincial and military police and roughly 50 local residents. The two sides exchanged heated words before the SRP delegation turned back.
The letter, sent Wednesday, accuses Borei Cholsa authorities of illegally blocking residents from land to which they have legitimate claims.
Any claims that the land does not belong to the farmers, the letter states, are “completely contrary to the reality, because at the border marker post 270 farmers have planted rice since their grandparents were farmers”.
“In addition, they have land titles issued by the authorities,” the letter states.
The lawmakers also drew a distinction between the situation in Borei Cholsa and that in Banteay Meanchey’s Thma Puok district, where residents have been encouraged to cultivate farmland along the disputed border with Thailand.
“This is the action to truly defend territorial integrity, and the national interests of the people,” the letter says of the situation in Thma Puok. “The blocking of farmers from planting rice by Borei Cholsa district authorities seriously affects their day-to-day living, and they could completely lose their farmland if the border marker becomes permanent.”
But Var Kimhong, the government’s senior minister in charge of border affairs, disputed the lawmakers’ version of events, saying the border area in question was merely a field of grass.
“If anyone attempts to farm on that land, there would be a problem.”
But villager Tet Sokun said Thursday that he stands to lose 3 hectares of farmland if the border markers are made permanent.
“The authorities are preventing me from planting rice on my land,” he said. “I have planted rice on this land since 1992. I am worried, because this land is all I have.”