Most NA Land Dispute Protesters Return Home

By Pin SisovannMore than 100 former Thai border camp refugees from Banteay Mean­chey province, who have been camped out in the park opposite the National Assembly since May 12, agreed to return home on Tues­day after their deputy provincial governor promised to solve their land dispute.

Deputy Governor Sar Cham­rong’s written promise followed a failed police attempt earlier in the day to forcibly remove the villagers, from Preah Netr Preah district, by packing them along with their be­longings onto two trucks.

The villagers eventually agreed to ride in the government trucks once Sar Chamrong, who was in Phnom Penh for a meeting at the In­terior Min­istry, met with the protesters and guaranteed their safety.

Nearly 200 villagers from Ban­teay Meanchey’s Malai district also re­turned home on Tuesday by truck after reaching an agreement Mon­day with their district governor, Tep Khun­nal, who visited Phnom Penh and told villagers he would ensure they had land to live on.

By noon on Tuesday, the only people still camped in the park opposite the Assembly were 28 Phnong minority and Khmer villagers from Mon­dolkiri province’s Sen Mono­rom district.

The 28 villagers allege that bodyguards working for Ly Kim Long, the Interior Ministry’s deputy director-general of the National Author­i­ty for Combating Drugs, burned down their homes on May 14.

Contacted by telephone, Ly Kim Long firmly denied the villagers’ al­legations. “I have no bodyguards,” he said, add­­ing that he had officially own­ed the villagers’ land in Mondol­kiri prov­ince since obtaining it in 1999.

Ly Kim Long added that provincial officials had “dismantled” the villagers’ homes.

The Interior Ministry official also ac­cused human rights workers of “un­­fairly” supporting the villagers’ griev­ances, claiming that Peun Pean, one of the affected villagers, worked for local rights group Ad­hoc.

Peun Pean denied working for Ad­­hoc, saying she was merely the victim of a land dispute.

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