Villagers Claim NGO Destroyed Farmland

Five hundred families have ac­cused a little-known NGO, purportedly headed by CPP president Chea Sim’s deputy cabinet chief, of threatening them and taking their farmland in Kandal province.

The villagers said an NGO called Kamfith arrived with bulldozers at several villages in Samraong Thom commune in Kien Svay district last month.

The bulldozer team was led by a man named Yin Kietomarak, Kien Svay district agriculture office chief Lim Huot and Chea Sim’s deputy cabinet chief, Lork Hour, commune council member Buth Vanna said.

Three men carrying AK-47s and dark clothes without insignias, whom villagers believe are Lork Hour’s bodyguards, fired their rifles into the air several times to scare villagers away while escorting the bulldozers, Buth Vanna said.

According to an investigator from the international NGO National Democracy Institute, Kamfith has produced a document permitting it to dig a canal to irrigate 340 hec­tares of farmland.

Buth Vanna said the land concession is located behind farmland claimed by six villages but the bulldozers have started working land claimed by two villages.

“They planned to bulldoze six villages’ farms, but they only did two villages, Prek Takeo and Chey Ot­dom, which affected 500 families,” she said.

Villagers started visiting the commune office every day asking for help because their crops had been destroyed by Kamfith, she added.

On July 27, one of the men fired his handgun in front of the commune council and fired into the ground in front of village representative Saom Chay, 60, and village chief Hang Sam, she said.

“Their actions are like land robbers,” Buth Vanna said. “We appeal to the government to stop their grabbing of villages’ farms. Nowa­days, the villagers are in turmoil and feeling unsafe.”

Mam Min, Kien Svay district governor, said the land has belonged to Chea Sim’s cabinet’s development NGO since 1999 with the intention of developing it for poverty reduction. He said Lork Hour sent bulldozers to mark the concession’s boundaries—5 km by 4 km—and every two to three days there are reports of gunfire from villagers being threatened.

However, Mam Min said Lork Hour wants to solve the problem peacefully.

“Now I have ordered the commune chief and village chief to make clear reports about the villages’ farms,” he said.

Lork Hour could not be reached for comment.


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