Poipet Villagers Settle Dispute, Remain on Land

More than 200 families living in the Poipet village where five residents were shot dead by state security forces during a violent eviction in March 2005 have now been giv­en the right to remain on the disputed land, officials said Tuesday.

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Governor Aun Sum visited Kbal Spean village along with O’Chrou district officials on Sunday and of­fered each family an 8-meter-by-20-meter plot of land, said Chey So­phat, a representative of the 218 families, who have remained on the land since the eviction.

Although each family had previously lived on a 10-meter-by-20-meter plot, Chey Sophat said villagers were happy with the offer.

The remaining land in the village will be given to the village’s chief, Tin On, Aun Sum said.

“The case of the 218 families is finished. Everybody benefited,” Aun Sum maintained.

“We took the strategy of the prime minister’s win-win policy,” he added.

More than 100 heavily armed soldiers, police and military police surrounded Kbal Spean village on March 21, 2005, and began forcibly evicting the families after the Ap­peals Court awarded their land to Tin On.

During the operation, security forces gunned down villagers who had armed themselves with crude weapons to resist the eviction, leaving five villagers dead and two in­jured. Two of the dead men were am­putees.

More than 120 officials involved in the eviction were subsequently charged with intentional killing, but all charges related to the shooting were later dropped by Battambang Provincial Court, which cited a lack of evidence.

Nuon Sochea, a lawyer with the rights group Adhoc, said a thorough reinvestigation had to be made into the five killings in the Poi­pet village.

“It is an injustice for villagers,” she said.

“We want the real perpetrators to be held responsible. It cannot be that no one is responsible.”

On Monday, each of the Kbal Spean families was given 100 kg of rice and $75 on behalf of Prime Min­ister Hun Sen, said villager representative Chey Sophat.

Local officials have promised that land titles will be issued at an un­spec­ified date, he said.

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