More than 180 ethnic Jarai families in Ratanakkiri province’s O’Yadaw district have accused Major General Kao Try, director of the Preah Ket Melea military hospital in Phnom Penh, of grabbing hundreds of hectares of community and village land, officials said August 24.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said that the families had filed a complaint with his organization August 20, claiming that Kao Try and three other individuals had received titles for 200 hectares the villagers have been living on since 1979.
“The land titles cover even school buildings, commune offices and residential villages,” Pen Bonnar said.
Provincial Governor Muong Poy said he had received a complaint from the villagers two months ago and had formed a committee to resolve the disagreement, but it was unsuccessful.
Muong Poy said that Kao Try holds 60 plots of land—each 5 hectares in size—with land titles from 1996, and the land in question did include schools, commune offices and villagers’ homes and farmland stretched across four villages in two communes.
Muong Poy said that last week he had sent letters to the Interior Ministry and the National Authority for the Resolution of Land Disputes asking them to handle the matter.
“We don’t have the ability to resolve it at the provincial level, because it is a national level land conflict,” Muong Poy said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant Khieu Sopheak and land dispute authority Deputy Chairman and SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang both said they were unaware of the provincial governor’s request.
Kao Try dismissed the land grabbing allegations August 24 saying his O’Yadaw district land was only 5 hectares given to him by soldiers in 1996. Kao Try also said he believes the complaint was likely made by District Governor Dork Sor, who he claimed had designs on the land.
“Actually, the district governor is the guy who wants the land,” he said.
Dork Sor denied having any interest in the land. He added that he was not aware that Kao Try had titles to any of the land, but did recall that the general had asked for 400 hectares in 1994 from deceased former District Governor Sil San for a potato plantation that never got cultivated.
“If that guy really planted potatoes since that year, there would not be a problem today,” Dork Sor said.