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Standoff ends in OMeanchey land dispute

Standoff ends in OMeanchey land dispute

OFFICIALS in Oddar Meanchey province on Monday began relocating a group of 200 families living in a protected forest area near Samraong town, ending a standoff that led to a violent altercation between villagers and Forestry Department workers in March, officials said.

Thon Nol, the governor of Samraong town, said 100 families would be moved to Bansay Reak commune, that 50 families would be moved to Konkriel commune, and that all would receive 30-by-40-metre plots of land.

The other 50 families will be moved to an as-yet-unbuilt military base in Oddar Meanchey, Thon Nol added.

He said officials hoped to move quickly in light of the fact that the rainy season is approaching.

“We could not relocate them all in one day, so we are cooperating with the two commune chiefs to do it step by step,” he said. “They could not live in the protected forest land.”

Forestry officials have said that the land was granted protected status last June, but that 10 families moved there in late 2009. The other families moved there towards the beginning of this year.

Sa Thlai, the provincial chief of community forests, said five Forestry Department staff members were injured in the March 11 altercation with villagers. A complaint was filed with the Interior Ministry and Siem Reap provincial court later that month.

A hearing in the court case was postponed on March 30 when a judge failed to appear.

On Monday, Sa Thlai he had been told by a court official that a new round of summonses had been issued in the case, but prosecutor Ty Soveinthal denied this.

Ty Soveinthal also said there were no plans to investigate Kim Saruon, the chief of Puor Thivong village, where some of the families used to live, or Hean Sok, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in Samraong, both of whom were initially accused of convincing the soldiers to move to the protected area in the first place.

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