Farmland Bulldozed in S’ville Despite Protests of 20 Families

Despite the protests of 20 families, a Sihanoukville businessman on Wednesday began bulldozing as much as 40 hectares of contested farmland in Prey Nop district’s Bit Traing commune, the commune’s chief and a villager said Wednes­day.

Huon Phat of Chamnaut Ream village said by telephone that the families resident on the land had protested outside the commune office, asking authorities to order a halt to the bulldozing by a local businessman, identified as Hak Savet.

Five armed men in military police uniforms were present, protecting the bulldozer, he said, adding that it was unclear how much land had been cleared so far.

“We are waiting for the commune chief to find a solution,” he said.

Hak Savet could not be contacted Wednesday, but SRP commune chief Luck Kean said that in re­sponse to the protest he had summoned Hak Savet to the commune office but had been rebuffed.

“He told me to meet him at the farmland where the tractor was bulldozing the farms,” Luck Kean said. “He doesn’t listen to me.”

He added that Hak Savet claim­ed to have purchased the land in 1996 from five other families who also failed to appear when summoned.

Luck Kean said that the previous commune chief has not properly maintained his records, making it difficult to resolve the issue.

Municipal military police Com­mander Heang Nin referred questions to Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak.

“I only followed orders,” he said.

Say Hak declined to answer questions about the land clearance, but said the matter did not concern any political party. “If they’ve said it’s involved with a political party, I won’t talk,” he said without explanation.

SRP lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang, deputy chief of the National Au­thority for the Resolution of Land Disputes, said that commune au­thorities must decide in favor of the side that responded to the commune authority’s summons.

“If the rich don’t come, the commune authorities must defend the party that respects the local authorities,” he said, adding that Luck Kean could transfer the matter to the court.


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