City Land Dispute Escalates; Owners Threaten Bodyguard

Residents of a Phnom Penh commune embroiled in a land dispute surrounded and threatened to destroy the car of a bodyguard of Prime Minister Hun Sen, officials and residents said.

Residents in Prey Veng commune in Dangkao district said bodyguard Ruos Sam Ol was attempting to remove fences Friday that villagers had set up to protect property they say has belonged to them for generations. At one point, villagers seized his vehicle and threatened to burn it.

The dispute centers on about 5 hectares of land loaned in 1982 by the villagers to an army security unit. The defunct military unit, in which Ruos Sam Ol had served as deputy commander, borrowed the land to farm rice but claimed ownership in 1987.

Villagers, who say the land was never used for farming, are now contesting the claim of four former members of the unit, including Ruos Sam Ol and commander Keo Samuon. Ney Thol, director of the country’s military court, said Monday that the conflict should be resolved legally rather than through violence. “If villagers [resort to violence] they will be wrong.”

 

 

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