Officials Fail to Show as Land Claims Grow

Kratie provincial officials on Tuesday abruptly canceled a planned meeting with representatives of hundreds of families evicted from their Snuol district land to make way for a Vietnamese rubber company, saying they needed time to study why the population requesting replacement land had more than doubled.

Following protracted protests, a 750-hectare social land concession was promised to 301 families who had their houses burned down in Khsoem commune to make way for a plantation owned by the Binh Phuoc 2 company. But in the intervening weeks, 449 families joined the list of those registering for land.

Deputy provincial Governor Khan Chamnan said his working group canceled the meeting because they were holding an inter-nal discussion instead.

“I will find the truth regarding why the number has increased by 449 families and who is behind the reason for those people coming to this land here,” he said.

Asked who he believed to be responsible, Mr. Chamnan replied: “the opposition.”

“We are able to solve the problem for the 301 families only, but we will not be responsible for the [449 families] because they should not be on the list,” he added.

CNRP lawmaker-elect Real Camerin, who has been among the opposition politicians who have rallied around the Kratie villagers’ cause, called the allegations “completely wrong.”

“We never encouraged people to register on more land. We also did not interfere with this work. We only support the people when they came to Phnom Penh with food and offered them ideas in accordance with the law and we never support anything that is against the law,” he said.

Nguon Vibol, 38, one of the seven representatives for the displaced villagers, said he believed authorities failed to stop additional registrations because they were afraid of further unrest.

“We requested the working groups to stop the registration as we saw the numbers rise over the 301 but they refused because those families may have protested if they were refused,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Ouch Sony)

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