Seven Villagers Detained Over Land Disputes

Seven villagers have been arrested and detained in prison over land dis­putes in Banteay Meanchey and Bat­tambang provinces, officials said Tues­day.

Four villagers arrested in Poipet com­mune Friday were charged Mon­day with violating the property of others, Adhoc’s Banteay Mean­chey coordinator Sam Chan Kea said.

The arrests stemmed from a dispute between 29 families living on 78 hectares of land since 1988 in An­doung Thma village and senior mil­i­tary officials who are trying to clear the property for unknown pur­poses, Sam Chan Kea said.

The families sent a letter of complaint to Adhoc Aug 26 claiming that the military officials were conspiring with local officials to usurp them from the land, he said.

Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief But Chhoeung said the four were arrested for leading villagers who tried to burn a car be­long­ing to local government officials who were dealing with the dispute.

But Chhoeung said the disputed area was “military development land” and that part of it was being given to demobilized soldiers.

Demobilized soldiers involved in a separate dispute protested Monday outside Banteay Meanchey’s pro­­vin­cial offices demanding land promised to them by the government, officials said.

The protestors dispersed after pro­vincial governor On Sum agreed to hold a meeting today to address their demands.

On Sum said he would hold a meeting between the protesters and their former RCAF commanders who are accused of selling land earmarked for demobilized soldiers. “If the land was sold, I will re­scind [the sale],” he said Monday.

In Battambang’s Bavel district, an 84-year-old man and two others in their mid-50s were arrested Mon­day and accused of establishing a se­cessionist movement related to a land dispute involving 3,170 families, most of whom are families of de­mobilized soldiers, villagers said. The three, and two other suspects who are at large, were ac­cused of distributing 10,000 hectares of disputed land to the 3,170 families.

Yorm Moun, deputy commander of RCAF Battalion 2 in Bavel dis­trict, said soldiers helped execute the arrest warrant with police.

Battambang Provincial Court Director Nil Non said he was unaware of the arrests.

Yeng Meng Ly, Adhoc’s Battambang coordinator, said that a Chinese company cleared a section of the 10,000 hectares earlier this year but then stopped several months ago. What officials plan to do with the land is still a mystery, Yeng Meng Ly said.

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