More than 200 villagers in Kampot province’s Kompong Bay district Thursday prevented police and local authorities from demolishing three homes on disputed land, officials and a rights NGO said.
Chhim Savuth, provincial investigator for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said around 100 armed police, court staff and local officials arrived with a fire truck in Andoung Khmer commune’s Andoung Khmer village to clear the homes from the land.
Although villagers had come with knives, machetes and other types of weapons to defend the three homes, whose owners have lived on the land since 1979, there was no confrontation, Chhim Savuth said.
Chhim Savuth said the court had decreed that the 399 square meters on which the houses stand belong to a business woman from Phnom Penh whose family claims to have owned the land prior to 1979.
Provincial court clerk Kuy Chi identified that woman as Seng Py, whom he said the court ruled in favor of in 1995. The three families living on the land had not been in court for that decision more than a decade ago, but orders have been given to demolish their homes, he said.
Seng Py could not be reached for comment.
The 1989 Subdecree 25 declared land rights prior to 1979 invalid, and Article 7 of the 2001 Land Law has maintained this stipulation.
House owner Tieng Sarath, 31, said he had lived on the disputed land since 1979, and questioned why the authorities said it now belonged to Seng Py.
“We have lived here so far—we are the owners of the land,” he said.
Seang Ly, provincial police deputy chief, said that he was simply enforcing the court decision, and had come with a fire truck in case there was violence.
Police left without destroying the homes, he added.