Three families in Pursat’s Kandieng district have expressed outrage after provincial authorities ruled that land they currently use for farming in fact belongs to the local Vietnamese Association, which uses it as a burial site.
The villagers in Veal commune say the hectare of land in question has been handed over without any offer of compensation.
“The authority announced that this land belongs to Vietnamese Association and that they have the have right to bury their dead and celebrate their religion there,” said villager Tit Sengdy. “We filed a complaint with the authority but they seem to be ignoring us.”
Villager Kiet Khay added: “We are Khmer citizens. The authority must give Khmers priority. At least they should give compensation to us, but they haven’t offered it to anyone. This land is farmland, directly behind our houses, where we have many mango trees and jackfruit that support our families.”
Adhoc coordinator for Pursat, Phuong Sothea, said that the NGO had investigated the land dispute and concluded the families involved were entitled to either a cash settlement or land elsewhere by way of compensation.
“They have filed a complaint with the authority, but it does not seem willing to find a solution for them,” he said, adding that the Vietnamese Association was already burying people on the contested plot.
But Cheng Lai, director of the Land Management Department in Pursat province, rejected the villagers’ argument yesterday, saying the Vietnamese Association has been using the disputed area for religious ceremonies for more than 35 years.
“We examined that land carefully,” he said. “The Vietnamese had control of it from 1979, but the villagers came and took it over, and now they want a land title for it. That is not possible.”
In fact, photos seen by the Post suggest that gravesites have existed on at least a portion of the land for quite some time.
Veal commune chief Sin Sopha agreed with Lai.
“The authority decided it already, so the villagers must to obey it,” he said.
The Vietnamese Association could not be reached for comment yesterday.