B’bang Governor Takes Action in Land Dispute

About 60 Battambang province villagers stopped harvesting contested rice fields Tuesday after a standoff with more than 20 po­lice, military police and RCAF soldiers, a village representative said.

Bavel district resident Heng Mel, part of a group of 112 families who claim the 180 hectares of paddy field were illegally seized from them by ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers, said villagers stopped the harvest after police threatened to arrest them.

Having started Monday, villagers had already harvested

2 hectares by the time they stopped Tuesday evening, and plan to return today despite po­lice orders, he added.

“We will continue to harvest even if the police arrest us,” he said.

Pech Tha, Bavel district deputy police chief, said he ordered his officers to stop the harvest after re­ceiving an order from the district governor.

The 112 families claim they are the rightful owners of 180 hec­tares that they allege Khmer Rouge soldiers illegally sold to 46 other families when they defected to the government in 1997.

Battambang Governor Prach Chan sided with the 46 families Tuesday, saying he had decided to allow them to harvest the land, and that the 112 families should wait for the provincial land title department to consider the case.

“If the 112 families do not respect the order, then the new 46 families can file a complaint to the court…and ask police to take measures against them,” he said.

A coalition of local human rights groups will travel to the disputed area today to investigate the case, said Yim Meng Ly, provincial director of the rights group Adhoc.


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