70 R’kiri Villagers File Complaint Over Threats

More than 70 villagers in Ratan­ak­kiri province have filed a complaint with local rights group Adhoc accusing Banlung district officials of threatening to jail villagers during a land confiscation last week, Adhoc and villagers said Sunday.

On May 9, more than 30 armed po­lice and military police accompanied local authorities and cleared hectares of land containing villagers’ crops and fencing in Laban Siek commune’s Bey village, villa­gers said.

Guns were pointed at villagers, and the district governor, Ly Vin, warned that those who resisted the land clearing would be handcuffed and jailed, alleged villager Nuth Sokky, who claimed she had lived on the land since 1991.

“I filed a complaint with Adhoc hoping this organization will forward it to [Prime Minister] Hun Sen to make him aware that his officials in the province are robbing villagers’ land,” said a second villager, Lak Samuth, who said he represents 48 families who thumbprinted the complaint to Adhoc.

Ly Vin denied the allegations, add­ing that the land was state-own­ed property and was being cleared to develop as a tourist attraction.

“I did nothing to intimidate those villagers. I just informed them they had been grabbing state land,” he said.

Ratanakkiri Provincial Governor Muong Poy said his officials simply removed fences that the villagers had started building behind their homes about three months ago in an effort to grab land on the side of a mountain.

“We will continue cracking down on mountain-grabbing activities,” he said.

Villagers alleged that the provincial government acted because the price of land has recently skyrocketed in the province.

Pen Bonnar, Adhoc provincial co­ordinator, said the authorities should have acted in the 1990s when the villagers first moved onto the land. The authorities do not have the authority to now force the villagers to move after they have lived on that land for so long, he added.



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