More than 30 former Khmer Rouge soldiers have accused the spouse of their deceased commander of grabbing land that they say belongs to them in Pailin City, officials said yesterday.
Ros Samon, 58, a representative of 33 families in the area, said that villagers claimed that Leang Vannak and her brother-in-law, Sim Sothy, who both work in the Pailin provincial tax department, have occupied eight hectares of land that families shared prior to 1996.
“We want the portion of the land to be shared,” Mr Samon said.
The dispute surfaced in 2003 when Ms Vannak and Mr Sothy built fences enclosing the eight hectares of contested land, Mr Samon added.
The former soldiers have since made three trips to Phnom Penh in order to deliver petitions to Prime Minister Hun Sen in the hope that their grievances will be addressed. The most recent trip was on Tuesday.
“We want some portions of the eight hectares of land, because we have had it before we were reintegrated” into the government in 1996, when Khmer Rouge soldiers in Pailin defected, Mr Samon said, adding that his former commander, Sok Savoeun, died in 1999.
Ms Vannak and Mr Sothy could not be reached.
Pailin commune chief Suos Sokha said yesterday that villagers stood little chance of winning the dispute.
“The thing is, the villagers do not have documents to prove that they own parts of the land,” he said.
Pailin City governor Suos Siyath said that two months of investigations carried out by local authorities over the disputed land came to a close in June, but that no decision had been reached.
“We want both parties to compromise, but they disagree,” he said.
Mr Siyath confirmed that before 1996 the land was used collectively by the soldiers, and that Ms Vannak had only claimed ownership over the land afterwards.
Chhoun Makkara, Pailin provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that he planned to meet with the villagers today to investigate the dispute.