Police Step In to Stop Land Dispute Scuffle

About 50 protesters faced off Tuesday against one of their former allies in a yearslong dispute over less than a hectare of land in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, scuffling briefly before local authorities promised to help resolve the conflict.

Pring Socheat, one of the protesters, said that she and the others represent 163 families who in 2011 were granted the 9,982-square-meter plot by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a lengthy legal dispute with a local businessman. But Ms. Socheat said one of the awardees, Chea Sarom, has since claimed all the land for herself and refused to let the others take up residence next to her home.

A man carries wooden poles to the scene of a land dispute in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, hoping to demarcate his claim. About 50 people who say they were awarded part of a one-hectare plot in Sen Sok district scuffled briefly with the family of a woman living on the land before police broke up the two sides. (Siv Channa/Cambodia Daily)
A man carries wooden poles to the scene of a land dispute in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, hoping to demarcate his claim. About 50 people who say they were awarded part of a one-hectare plot in Sen Sok district scuffled briefly with the family of a woman living on the land before police broke up the two sides. (Siv Channa/Cambodia Daily)

Though the Court of Appeal handed down an injunction in June barring Ms. Sarom from selling off or renting the land, the protesters say their former ally is still refusing to let them move in.

Tired of waiting on the court for a solution, they went to the site Tuesday morning with wooden poles they intended to use to demarcate their share, but ended up in a brief shoving match with Ms. Sarom and some of her relatives before district police and security guards broke them up.

“We cannot stay calm anymore if she keeps the land all for herself while we live outside,” Ms. Socheat said. “She needs to share with us.”

Ms. Sarom said the protesters were all imposters and not among the 163 families issued the land by the court.

“They’re trying to violate my land without permission; I don’t know them,” she said. “The 163 families live with me every day and the authorities told me today not to let anyone else come here.”

Deputy district governor Mou Manith, who was at the scene, said authorities were working with the municipal court to figure out exactly who had rights to the land.

“City Hall has created a group to investigate and share the land with the real 163 families. City Hall has asked the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to give us the number and names of the families the land belongs to,” he said.

“Today, we just came to prevent any violence…. We are waiting for City Hall to give us the list of families. Then we will resolve this.”

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