Governor Replaced Amid Land-Grab Scandal

Funcinpec has replaced its governor in the northern province of Oddar Meanchey, following repeated claims from villagers that government officials were illegally seizing land in the isolated border province.

Parliamentarian Long Sarin, a former foreign ministry official posted to Bangkok during much of the 1990s, formally took over the province April 12, according to a royal decree signed by King Norodom Sihanouk. He will give up his lawmaking seat.

He replaced Chamroeun Cheath, who will become an adviser to the Ministry of De­fense, according to the decree. Chamroeun Cheath did not effectively manage the province, according to a senior CPP In­terior Ministry official who asked not to be identified.

Dozens of villagers left Oddar Meanchey in the past year and protested in front of the National Assembly in Phnom Penh, de­manding compensation for land they claim was taken from them by developers.

Long Sarin said Thursday that he will make his first visit as governor next week. He will tour the province’s four districts, including Anlong Veng, the last defiant Khmer Rouge bastion before succumbing to the government.

“I pledge to use my heartiest effort to develop the whole province,” Long Sarin said by telephone, admitting he did not know details about the land-grabbing allegations or about alleged Thai border encroachment.

The province is Cambodia’s least populated, with 68,000 residents, according to the 1998 census. It abuts three Thai provinces: Buriram, Surin and Sisaket.

Long Sarin is familiar with the area, as he operated as a liaison between Funcinpec and the Khmer Rouge rebels during the 1990s, Asian diplomats based in Phnom Penh have said. (Ad­ditional reporting by Chris Decherd)

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