Villagers Rally at PM’s Home Over R’kiri Land

Twenty villagers representing 27 Ratanakkiri families rallied outside Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house in Kandal province’s Takhmau town Monday to ask for help in a dispute over land that provincial CPP officials claim to be theirs, officials said.

Chan Soveth, monitor for local rights group Adhoc, said by telephone that the families were ordered by CPP officials to move from the 1.86 hectares of disputed land in Banlung district’s Laban Siek commune.

“They were intimidated by CPP officials that they will face eviction after the election,” he said.

However, Sok Horm, a CPP provincial office deputy chief, called the protesting villagers “land grabbers” and claimed that the actual owners of the land had already moved away to a site outside Banlung town in 2003 as part of an agreement with the ruling party.

“The land will be used to construct a provincial CPP headquarters,” he said, adding that the villagers are expected to leave after the national elections in July.

“They must leave. If they are stubborn, we will take legal action,” Sok Horm said.

Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said the villagers were first asked to leave in 2005. He added that an official at Hun Sen’s house Monday pro­mised the villagers that a delegation would visit the province and attempt to resolve the dispute.

A 47-year-old protester, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said by telephone that he had lived on the disputed land since 1986 and that provincial CPP officials promised that land would be given to him in an area just outside Banlung that he called Tuol Kamsan.

“The promise just went away like the wind,” he said.

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