B Meanchey Suit Threatened Over Alleged Land-Grabbing

Banteay Meanchey provincial hall has threatened to sue a local businessman and a commune coun­cilor in Thma Puok district if the grabbing of a social land concession from more than 80 families continues, officials said yesterday.

The threat came after more than 70 villagers, representing 83 families in Kork Romiet commune’s Khoeb Thma village, staged a protest on Tuesday calling for pro­vincial governor Ung Ung Oeun to stop businessman Sok Yoeurn and councilor Hem Sanh from grabbing 114.59 hec­tares, a provincial hall official said.

Ouk Keorattanak, spokesman and deputy chief of the provincial administration, said the provincial authority was planning to send an intervention letter to district governor Blek Vary, which would in­form him that the land was granted by the authorities for agricultural use by the villagers.

The letter ordered the “use of all forces such as police and military police in his jurisdiction to stop the businessman from grabbing the land,” Mr Keorattanak said.

“If the district authorities fail to re­solve the matter and [Mr Yoeurn] continues to grab land with the backing of officials, we vow to bring a lawsuit to the [pro­vincial] court,” he said.

Protestor Buth Chroeng, 49, alleged that Mr Yoeurn sprayed herbicides, damaging eight hec­tares of rice paddy, and then re­planted the land with cassava on May 12. Villagers had attempted but failed to stop Mr Yoeurn and Mr Sanh from destroying further crops, Mr Chroeng said.

Neither Mr Yoeurn nor Mr Sanh could be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr Vary said the land sprayed with herbicide was allegedly outside the concession zone. He said an attempt by the Cadastral Admin­istration and the provincial authorities to demarcate the land had failed, because there was a protest held by another group of villagers and commune councilors who also claimed the land as theirs.

“The dispute occurred because the boundary has yet to be properly set,” Mr Vary said, adding that he had asked the authorities to remeasure the land.

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