Ex-Soldiers Block Access to Poipet Farms, Villagers Say

Around 150 former RCAF soldiers have been preventing farmers since Tuesday from working on their land in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet city due to a land dispute, villagers and officials said Friday.

Soldiers formerly of the RCAF 12th Division claim they were given rights in December to the 28 hectares in dispute by the privately run National Agriculture Development Association, which acquired land rights from the former provincial governor in 2006, according to Kea Chansan, a representative of the 20 farmer families living in Tuol Pongro village.

Ms Chansan, 54, said that shortly after NADA acquired the land, the villagers filed a complaint with the provincial court claiming that the land was given to the farmers in 1998 by provincial authorities. The case has sat at the court ever since, she said, adding that the soldiers moved onto the land Tuesday.

“When I go to plough my land, the soldiers confiscate my tractor,” she said. “This affects my livelihood because I survive on farming.”

Ran Chamroeun, chief of Toul Pongro village, also said that the land has belonged to the villagers since it was given to them in 1998.

“I know this land belongs to my villagers,” he said.

Soun Chan Kea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, confirmed that the dispute started in 2006 when NADA was allocated the land by the provincial authorities.

“But a solution has never been found,” he said.

San Sean Ho, Poipet district governor, said he had ordered the soldiers to stop menacing the villagers until the court released a verdict stating who the land belongs to.

Ang Niredey, director of Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court, declined to comment on the case.

“I would not like to give an answer on this problem until more research has been done,” he said.

Banteay Meanchey Governor Ung Oeung said he was too busy to comment on the dispute on Friday.


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