City Residents, Workers Face Off Over Land

Another standoff ensued in Phnom Penh’s restive Rik Reay community Monday when construction workers used bulldozers to push mountains of sand onto property claimed by local residents, officials said.

The standoff in Chamkar Mon district’s Tonle Bassac commune is one in a series since Can­a­dia Bank began developing land ad­joining Rik Reay’s western border more than a year ago. A skirmish Thurs­day between residents and wor­kers over the removal of community boundary markers left four villa­gers injured and one unconscious.

Mam Vuthy, a project officer for the Community Legal Education Center, said Monday that construction workers brandishing sticks stood guard as bulldozers pushed sand over where the boun­dary markers were removed Thursday.

“The villagers only used loudspeakers to shout at the workers and bulldozers to stop dumping sand on their property,” Mam Vuthy said.

SRP lawmaker Ho Vann, who ar­rived at the scene and successfully put an end to the standoff, said the sand infringed on about 1,000 square meters of villager property.

The villagers were “protecting their land from being grabbed,” he said, adding that if the government wishes to buy the villagers’ land they should offer market prices.

Ho Vann appealed to local and municipal authorities to remain neutral and not “use their powers to mix with rich men in order to pressure poor and powerless citizens.”

Chamkar Mon District Governor Lou Yuy declined to comment Mon­day and referred questions to Tonle Bassac commune chief Khat Narith, who said that compensation negotiations with residents are underway and that Monday’s stand­off was outside his jurisdiction.

“It is beyond our power and duty, but I will make a report to the district and municipality.”

Canadia Director Pong Khiev Se could not be reached for comment.

Community representative Keo Navan said that Rik Reay residents had lodged a formal complaint at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over Thursday’s incident.

“But I doubt the court will provide justice for poor people such as us,” she said.

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