Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Villagers, riot cop in fight over Preah Vihear burial site

Villagers, riot cop in fight over Preah Vihear burial site

Authorities talk to villagers in Preah Vihear province earlier this week after community members were summoned for questioning regarding at land dispute. Photo supplied
Authorities talk to villagers in Preah Vihear province earlier this week after community members were summoned for questioning regarding at land dispute. Photo supplied

Villagers, riot cop in fight over Preah Vihear burial site

More than 200 Preah Vihear families are locked in a land dispute with a Phnom Penh police officer over a 7-hectare burial site, with villagers alleging the officer drew his service pistol on them.

Um Vanna is a Phnom Penh-based officer in the National Police’s riot squad. To the protests of local residents, Vanna lay claim to a burial site in Preah Vihear’s Sangkum Thmei district early last year.

Sun Chanda, 31, lives nearby and is among the villagers who oppose Vanna’s claim to what they say is the resting place of their ancestors.

“Vanna wants people to hand the ancestral graveyard to him for his private property, but we want to preserve it as collective property,” said Chanda.

Chanda is one of eight villagers accused in a lawsuit brought by Vanna in December of “violently grabbing and intentionally vandalising” his property.

When Vanna first arrived, accompanied by local authorities, to claim the burial site, local residents turned up to protest. It was then, according to Chanda, that Vanna drew his weapon.

“Um Vanna, dressed in his police uniform with a gun, claimed that he is an anti-riot police officer from Phnom Penh.

He threatened to shoot, saying one shot could make nine people faint and then he could send them to jail,” Chanda said.

Later, Chanda said, Vanna spent $1,500 paying local workers to clear the forest on the burial site and erect a fence around it.

The villagers responded by burning the fence and constructing a small pagoda on the site, to be inhabited by five monks charged with caring for the “sacred space”.

Last month, Preah Vihear Provincial Court issued summonses for Chanda and his seven co-defendants. As of yesterday, three had been questioned. For his part, Chanda denies any part in the vandalism.

Vanna was not reachable for yesterday. However, Sangkum Thmei District Governor Ros Heng challenged the villagers’ version of events.

Heng insists Vanna’s claim does not encroach on the burial site, but rather the two are adjacent.

In fact, he said, a local family had encroached 22 metres into the burial site but had since been evicted. Following the eviction, he continued, villagers began planting fence posts deep inside Vanna’s land, which he says he inherited.

Chanda, who is one of the defendants in the lawsuit, does not doubt Vanna’s local connection but maintains the land is not his.

“We do not know why Vanna claimed the land belongs to him,” he said. “He just was born in the nearby commune.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180