Poipet Villagers Protest at Hun Sen’s Residence

Approximately 200 villagers from Banteay Meanchey pro­vince’s Poipet commune demonstrated outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Takhmau town residence Monday to demand 103 hec­tares of land promised to their families in 2004, officials and villagers said.

The villagers alleged that land pro­mised to their 589 families in a 2004 directive signed by Council of Ministers Undersecretary of State Bun Uy had instead been given to 34 other families, including some senior government officials.

Khun Sarin, president of a local NGO, the Cambodian Association for Rural Development and Health, said that when the villagers went to fill out paperwork requesting titles following the 2004 directive, provincial authorities refused on the grounds that another letter from the Council of Ministers indicated that 34 families had a claim to the land.

Banteay Meanchey Deputy Governor Sok Sareth said the land had already been equitably divided among the 589 families, but some had then sold off their plots.

“They received land from the gov­ernment already,” he said. “We didn’t take it back from them.”

Sok Sareth claimed that he was unaware if the families of high ranking government officials were among the 34 new owners of the disputed land.

Hing Bun Heang, chief of Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, said that he had offered the villagers $200 to pay for their travel costs back to Poipet.

Villager Kadib Kunara, 56, said the villagers accepted the money and left the prime minister’s house after being promised by Hing Bun Heang that he would investigate the case by the end of the week.

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