Soldiers Claim General Sold Off School Land

The Ministry of Defense and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) sent two teams to Siem Reap City over the weekend to investigate a high-profile land dispute between a senior general and a unit of soldiers, officials said on Sunday.

The probe comes after 81 soldiers thumb-printed a petition accusing Dom Hak, a four-star general who once commanded the military’s Region 4, of seizing a school compound on their base in 2008, according to Ean Borin, deputy commander of the region, which covers Siem Reap province. He said the complaint was submitted to Defense Minister Tea Banh and RCAF Commander Pol Saroeun on Wednesday.

Mr. Borin said that the 600-square-meter compound in Kok­chak commune—built in 2006 and named the Tea Banh Military School—was sold off to four individuals, including relatives and associates of the general.

“The inspection groups asked me and other soldiers on Saturday about the background of the land, and we told them that our soldiers moved here and occupied the land since 2006,” he said on Sunday.

Mr. Borin said the groups—led by two major generals—planned to speak with General Hak personally, as well as others involved in the land sales and the commune authorities who issued land ownership documents.

One of four individuals who acquired land in the school compound is Taing Eang, whose niece is married to Gen. Hak, Mr. Borin said.

Mr. Eang’s wife, Chea Mouy, said Gen. Hak had given them the land without a land title, but that the transfer was certified by the commune authorities.

“His Excellency Dom Hak gave me this land because he saw that my family was poor,” Ms. Mouy said last week, adding that she and her husband had lived on the plot since 2008. She said they returned it to Gen. Hak to build an office in 2011, but that the couple had since bought it back for $3,500.

Others who have acquired land in the compound are Chea Meng, a brother-in-law of Gen. Hak’s wife; Prak Hoeun, a former Region 4 com­mander; and Buot Vong, a Defense Ministry official, according to Mr. Borin. 

Gen. Hak, who is on two-years’ leave from the military, could not be reached. But his wife, Chea Pov, confirmed last week that one plot had been given to Mr. Eang. She could not be reached on Sunday to comment on the other plots.

General Banh, the defense minister, said last week that he had received the complaint and was working on the issue but declined to comment further.

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