Four Villagers Are Arrested in Kratie Province Land Dispute

Military police in Kratie province yesterday arrested four men for clearing a piece of land claimed by both a rubber company and ethnic villagers in Snuol district’s Sre Cha commune, a commune official and villager said.

Saren Keth, a representative for about 80 families of the Stieng ethnicity involved in a land dispute with the rubber company CIV, said about 10 military police officers approached the four men, handcuffed them and sent them to the provincial military police headquarters at about 3 pm yesterday.

Mr Keth said the four men were living in Meanchey village and were helping to clear the land belonging to another villager when the armed officers arrived. He said about 200 residents from the district were planning to converge in Kratie City today and demand the release of Ry Da, Nhem Dom, Ra Koeun and Ven Sokheng.

“We will demand that our villagers are set free because we have never cleared the company’s land and we have farmed in the area for years,” Mr Keth said.

Representatives of the provincial military police could not be reached yesterday.

Sre Cha commune chief Phon Chhorn confirmed that the arrests had occurred but said he was powerless to help the villagers with their problems. “It is too big of a problem for me to solve,” he said.

Mr Chhorn said roughly 200 he­ctares of land were in dispute and urged CIV and provincial officials to clearly define who owned which plots of land in the district.

Contact details and ownership information for CIV were unavailable. Mr Keth claimed the company was owned by a Malaysian man and had received 1,000 hectares of district land in 2008 to grow rubber trees. He said about 390 hectares of the 1,000 were owned by villagers.

Mr Keth said no agreement exists with CIV because company representatives were replaced and the new ones refused to honor their predecessors’ agreement.

Thim Narin, provincial coordinator for the local human rights group Adhoc, said that she was aware of the arrests but could provide no further details. She said her organization, however, would continue to in­vestigate the case.


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