Commune Chief Leads Protest Against Adhoc

A CPP commune chief in Battambang province led more than 150 villagers in a demonstration on Friday outside the local office of rights group Adhoc after a representative of the organization accused the official of corruption for allegedly selling plots of public land to local residents.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia on September 17, Adhoc provincial coordinator Yin Mengly accused Chhea Ny, the chief of Boeng Bram commune in Bavel district, of selling private plots inside a 3,638-hectare social land concession that was granted to 1,549 families in 2011.

Mr. Mengly told the news service that Mr. Ny cheated roughly 100 families out of 3 million riel, or about $750, each by promising them, in a public meeting on September 12, 40-square-meter residential plots and five hectares of farmland apiece in exchange for the money.

“We found that Mr. Ny engaged in corruption and we have documents to prove that he took the social land concession and sold it to villagers,” Mr. Mengly said by telephone Sunday, adding that the villagers who took Mr. Ny up on his offer received only the housing plots and not the farmland.

“I know what Mr. Ny did is wrong because he cannot sell public land,” Mr. Mengly said.

On Friday, Mr. Ny hit back at the Adhoc monitor, gathering with more than 150 villagers outside Adhoc’s provincial office.

“We protested against Adhoc, demanding that the organization give a clear explanation so people don’t get the wrong idea about me,” Mr. Ny said Sunday.

“[Adhoc] accused me of collecting money from villagers related to the social land concession policy, but this accusation is untrue,” he said, claiming that while he did collect between 1 million and 3 million riel from some 1,500 families, he used the money to finance a new gravel road and irrigation canal in the commune.

Mr. Ny said the projects were “for the good of the people.”

Villagers who paid Mr. Ny for the promised five hectares of farmland, however, were less convinced.

“I received only the land inside my village,” said 51-year-old Prang Krang. “As for the farmland, the commune chief told us to clear the forest if we wanted it.”

Kong Samoeun, 56, said his village chief instructed him to join Mr. Ny’s protest Friday, but that he refused.

“The village chief told me…to support the commune chief, but I didn’t go, because my nephew was cheated out of 3 million riel,” he said.

Mr. Ny admitted Sunday that he spent more than a year in prison in 2006 and 2007 after the Battambang Provincial Court charged him with attempting to sell state property and allowing villagers to clear forested sections of the commune.

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