Villagers Protest, Two Arrested in Land Dispute

Two villagers were arrested in Kampot province’s Kompong Trach district Wednesday as they attempted to prevent excavators from clearing what they say are their ancestral lands.

Kampot provincial deputy police chief Mao Chan Makthurith said that 40 police were sent to the dispute, where about 40 villagers were blocking machinery belonging to the Van Vanna construction company.

According to Mr. Chan Makthurith, a court injunction gives Van Vanna the right to clear and develop the land.

“We arrested two people because they tried to stop excavators clearing the land,” Mr. Chan Makthurith said.

“We have sent the pair to the provincial police headquarters and they will be sent to court to face the law after police build the case against them.”

The remainder of the crowd protesting the development company fled, according to police and villagers.

The 12 families claiming the land say the dispute arose in 2011, when the Van Vanna company began buying up plots around their land. They say they declined offers of $40,000 for the roughly two-hectare plot.

However, Kampot provincial governor Khoy Khunhour said the disputed plot belongs to just one family and that as they have no land title, Van Vanna will be allowed to develop.

“We have tried to compensate a few times, but the family has not agreed to the solution,” Mr. Khunhour said. “We decided to send the case to court because it is impossible to solve the problem.”

Hin Try, a 67-year-old representative of the 12 families, said the families would not yield to the company. She said that all those living on the land descended from one couple and that the family had remained on the plot through the 1970s.

“We have no land title but this is our ancestral lands from before French colonial times,” Ms. Try said. “Even during the Pol Pot regime, our family occupied this land.”

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