The statute of limitations expired yesterday for the appeal of a Kandal Provincial Court decision that awarded 54 hectares that have long been claimed by 114 families to a former Kien Svay district governor, authorities and a villager representative said.
The provincial court gave the land to former Kien Svay governor Prak Savuth in July 2010. Yesterday, current district governor Heng Thoeum and an armed force of 30 visited the land, said villager representative Prom Nguon. Some armed forces visited on Sunday night.
“Last night, armed forces shot two times to threaten our villagers who wanted to protect our rice fields, and we have no extra farmland,” he said.
“We are farmers living with farmland, but now they grabbed our farm land. How can we live if we have none?” he said. He said that villagers chose not to appeal because they did not have enough funds, and doubted that the Court of Appeal would treat them fairly.
“Authorities colluded in the system. We were hopeless that we would win in court,” he said.
He said that the dispute began during the Untac era, when the villagers settled there and came into conflict with Mr Savuth.
Pa Som Eth, the Kien Svay district police chief, denied that police fired any weapons and defended their actions, claiming they were merely carrying out a court order.
“Today, we went to the land boundaries for plaintiff Prak Savuth…after the court decision on July 2, 2010,” he said.
Men Makara, the chief of monitoring for Adhoc, said that Mr Savuth had requested that the land be given to Cambodians living in Thai refugee camps in the 1980s. When the refugees left the land in the early 1990s, the villagers moved in. But Mr Savuth insisted that the land still belonged to him, he said. Mr Makara declined to offer an opinion on the court decision in Mr Savuth’s favor.
Mr Savuth could not be reached for comment.