Angered Villagers Protest Against Land Clearing

More than 100 villagers in Kampot province’s Chhuk district protested Saturday against the clearing of 100 hectares of the land that they claim is community forest, according to a rights worker.

Try Chhuon, provincial coordinator for the local rights group Adhoc, said Sunday that the Lboeuk commune villagers be­came angered following the clearing of 100 hectares of a 600-hectare community forest. She added that provincial land management officials had been seen measuring the disputed property and accused the local authorities of selling the land to real estate broker Chhat Ly.

Lboeuk commune chief Em Chhun said Sunday that he had not been aware of the forest clearing, but added that it had halted following Saturday’s protest in part because of his actions.

He also denied any involvement in selling the land.

“The people sold the land,” he said. “I did not know.”

Provincial Land Management Director Pang Bunnaroth said that he too was unaware of the clearing until rights workers informed him.             Pang Bunnaroth said that he has ordered his officials to stop measuring the forestland until the issue is resolved.

Chhat Ly said by phone Sunday that he had purchased the land from villagers for $2,000 to $4,000 per hectare for a Cambodian-Chinese individual in Phnom Penh.

He said that he had only purchased 60 hectares, not 100, and that the property is not registered as community forestland.

“The land I bought is next to the community land,” he said. “The people who protested were the ones who did not have land to sell, but needed money.”

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