Land Dispute Protesters Crash RCAF Graduation Ceremony

About 100 angry villagers protested outside the graduation ceremony for Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Infantry Battalion 91 officers Monday to demand that senior officials intervene in their land dispute with the military unit.

The ceremony in Phnom Penh for officers who had completed an infantry training program was presided over by Hun Manet, the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen and the head of the military’s anti-terrorism force.

Villagers hold up signs outside the headquarters of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Infantry Battalion 91 in Pur Senchey district on Monday to air claims that the battalion illegally sold part of their land. (Sek Odom/The Cambodia Daily)
Villagers hold up signs outside the headquarters of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Infantry Battalion 91 in Pur Senchey district on Monday to air claims that the battalion illegally sold part of their land. (Sek Odom/The Cambodia Daily)

Protesters picketed the battalion’s headquarters in Pur Senchey district with photos of Mr. Hun Sen and Bun Rany, Mr. Manet’s mother, to request their help in reclaiming land around the headquarters that they claim is theirs.

The protesters, comprising 35 families involved in the dispute and about 100 more providing support, say that leaders of Infantry Battalion 91 illegally sold part of a plot of land they had been leasing from the villagers since 1987.

“I heard that Hun Manet had come here, so we have to protest to show him our problem, that the local officials have not come to resolve anything and have delayed things for a long time,” said Kim San, 50, one of the protesters.

“Major General Sok Pang lied: He sold to private people land that we had lived on since after [the] Khmer Rouge.”

At about 1 p.m., four villager representatives were allowed inside the compound to meet with Mr. Manet and present their case against Infantry Battalion 91.

“My hope is small when we have to wait to negotiate with City Hall, but I hope Hun Manet will tell Samdech Hun Sen to intervene for us. I need my land,” said Heng Touch, 57.

Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Sucheat could not be reached for comment. However, Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche denied that municipal officials were trying to delay a meeting with the unit to resolve the land dispute.

“We are preparing to organize a meeting between the parties involved as soon as possible,” he said.

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