Villagers Call on Soldiers to Return Disputed Land

About 50 villagers from the Prey Tea village in Phnom Penh’s Pur Senchey district protested in front of City Hall on Monday, demanding that municipal officials intervene in a land dispute with military officials and their families.

The villagers say the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Infantry Battalion 91 entered into an agreement with them in 1987 to lease the land, only to sell on parts of it in 2000.

“The soldiers have borrowed our land since 1987, and in 2000 they moved out…we have waited since 2006 for a solution, but there is no solution for us,” said village representative Sok Ravy, 50.

“We asked City Hall to help us find a solution to get back our 9 hectares of land that the battalion had occupied, but now they have demarcated the land and sold about 4 hectares. They constructed buildings and sold them to other people.”

A document dated August 30, 2005, and signed by Defense Minister Tea Banh supports their case. It orders the battalion’s commander, Prak Piphoy, to “urgently give back the land to 35 families according to the government decision.”

A follow-up notice calling on the soldiers to give back the land was issued by then-Council of Ministers Secretary of State Prak Sokhonn in 2006.

“Why did the battalion not implement the Minister of Defense and government notices?” asked villager Men Kim on Monday. “This is injustice for our villagers—although we have a government notice, they took our land.”

Unit Commander Piphoy acknowledged receipt of the notices years ago, but said Monday he considered the matter closed.

He said that Chea Sophara, then Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal assistant, had offered the families 15 hectares of land in Sen Sok district’s Anlong Kngan village in exchange for their land.

“But they did not accept it,” he said. “And now they are protesting.”

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