Protesters Accuse K Speu NGO of Land Grab

kompong speu province – Villagers in Phnom Sruoch district’s Treng Trayoeng commune held a rally Thursday to protest the alleged encroachment on their land by a disability NGO.

The residents of Veal Thom village said they had planned to deliver a petition thumbprinted by 492 families to provincial Governor Kang Heang, who was expected to appear Thursday at a ceremony to mark the opening of a vocational training center built by the NGO Salvage of Disabled Cambodian Association.

Village chief Sann Kan, 56, alleged that since 2004 the NGO, led by a man named Touch Soeurly, had begun to encroach on parcels of land which the villagers claim they own.

Buth Sophat, an assistant to Touch Soeurly, said by telephone that the NGO was occupying its own land, which it allots in parcels to disabled people. The recipients are expected to farm the land, but this offer can be rescinded.

“The development project of Salvage of Disabled Cambodian Association never created any problems for people,” he said. “But our NGO has a policy to retake 50 percent of the land back if the disabled don’t develop it.”

In Phnom Penh on Thursday, about 100 villagers from Dangkao district protested outside the National Assembly and at the Takhmau town residence of Prime Minister Hun Sen to denounce the alleged seizure of their land by two neighboring villages.

The villagers from Ang village complained that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court had erroneously ruled in 2006 and again in March this year that 9.7 hectares of rice paddy in Proteah Lang commune belonged to residents in Proteah Lang and Phear villages.

Pov Nymol, 41, a protester, said she had been planting on the disputed land since 1979 and could not live without it.

“This has been our land since a long time ago and does not belong to the other villages,” she said.

Dangkao district chief Kroch Phan said Thursday that villagers had been using the land since 1979 but that the court had made its ruling.

    (Additional reporting by Eang Mengleng)

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