Arrest Made in Long-Running Battambang Land Dispute

A villager in Battambang province was arrested on Monday in connection with a long-running land dispute that has pitted about 30 families in Thma Koul district against a local businessman, both laying claim to the same 161 hectares of farmland, police said Tuesday.

The villager, Kong Chanmony, was arrested on a warrant issued by the Supreme Court in 2013, according to provincial deputy prosecutor Touch Sopheakdey, who said authorities are also seeking to arrest five other villagers convicted of infringing on the property of Eang Oeun.

“Those suspects were convicted by the court of infringement on the private ownership of Eang Oeun, sentenced to two years in jail and fined 40 million riel [about $10,000] altogether,” he said, adding that Mr. Chanmony had been detained at the provincial prison.

The dispute between the 30 families and Mr. Oeun began in 1999, and a number of villagers have already spent stints in prison over the infringement claims.

Choem Keo, one of the villagers sought for arrest, said that the villagers had lived legally on the land since 1990 and did not know how Mr. Oeun obtained titles to the 161 hectares.

“Where can we go when they file a complaint demanding our land and the court is looking to arrest us?” he asked. “I commit to die on my land even if the court arrests us.”

Mr. Oeun could not be reached for comment.

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