A man was arrested in Kampong Cham’s Batheay district on Tuesday by police who allege that he was the ringleader of an illegal land grab in Mondulkiri.
Pen Roth, a Kampong Cham police chief, said that Chhum Sopheap, 44, persuaded at least 90 villagers in Batheay district to take forest land in Mondulkiri’s Koh Nhek district.
According to authorities, each villager paid 50,000 riel ($12)to Chhum Sopheap for help preparing “legal” documents for the land.
“He persuaded the villagers that the land in Mondulkiri was free, and a kind of forest area, so villagers could grab that land to live on,” Roth said yesterday.
Ngog Choat, chief of Troap commune in Batheay district, said that the villagers are extremely poor and did not have land to live on in Batheay district, which is why they were eager to believe the suspect’s claim that land ownership in Mondulkiri was free.
“They thought that they were living there legally because he had helped them prepare [fake] documents for the land,” he said. “They easily believed the suspect,” he added.