Officials continued measuring disputed plots of land Sunday after around 10 armed police were deployed last week in preparation to evict more than 170 families from land in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet commune that provincial authorities say is a social land concession, officials said.
According to Sam Sarun, a representative of the affected Tuol Prasat villagers, the police protected workers as they measured out plots of land throughout the 34.5 disputed hectares, while those who claim to own it looked on.
A number of families were evicted, and their houses demolished by police when approximately half of the disputed land was cleared in December, said Sam Sarun, adding that officials were still measuring the land Sunday.
Banteay Meanchey provincial office secretary general Som Sothen said Thursday that the disputed land was a state social land concession.
“We have the documents to prove it,” he added.
Provincial deputy governor Sok Sareth, who heads a newly-formed committee set up to solve the dispute, said a total of six hectares of the land concession had been fully measured and prepared thus far.
The government had given its approval to divide a section of the land concession into 6-by-12 meter plots for more than 1,000 families who are to be relocated from the nearby Balelay village, he said.
The rest of the concession would be given to other landless people in the province, he said.
Cambodia Center for Human Rights Investigator In Kongchit said the provincial officials’ activities in Tuol Prasat were unacceptable and abused the rights of the families living there, many of whom claim ownership of the land since 1997.
“It is a long-running dispute,” he said.
But Sok Sareth described the 170 families who currently live there as landgrabbers.
“If those families had legal land titles, we would not do this,” he said, adding that they will be given plots of land in an area nearby as compensation.
O’Chrou district deputy governor Sok Khoeun confirmed the arrival of the armed police but referred further questions to district governor Keo Sen, who said he was too busy to speak to a reporter.