Ethnic Minority Villagers in Eastern Cambodia File Court Case Over Land Grab

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The map shows eastern Cambodia's Mondulkiri province.
The map shows eastern Cambodia's Mondulkiri province.

Indigenous villagers in eastern Cambodia’s Mondulkiri province have filed a complaint in local court against military officers and a land speculator who forcibly confiscated more than 80 hectares (198 acres) of their land, an official from a rights group said Thursday.

Phnong indigenous villagers from 44 families in the province’s Keo Seima district filed the complaint on Sept. 27 after the local military chief, Sak Sarun, and land speculator, Lek Ha, forced them from their homes and seized their rice fields in June, said Sok Ratha, provincial coordinator for the domestic rights group Adhoc.

The seizures took place even though provincial authorities had issued the families certificates of ownership for the land, he said.

Adhoc is intervening on behalf of the villagers to ask the provincial prosecutor to see that justice prevails in the dispute.

Sok Ratha told RFA that Sak Sarun had violated the country’s land title and indigenous laws by confiscating forestland on which the villagers have been planting crops since 2001.

Authorities granted the land ownership certificates even though villagers have had to occasionally leave the area for short periods for security reasons, he said.   

Proeuk Be, chief of Srey Preah commune where the families live, said he issued certificates of ownership to the families last June so they could cultivate the land.

At the time, local authorities summoned Sak Sarun to discuss the matter, but he declined to participate.

That same month, Sak Sarun and two other officers arrested three of the villagers who were about to plant rice and handcuffed and beat them for taking pictures of land that he had confiscated.

RFA could not reach Sak Sarun for comment.

Proeuk Be accused the military officers of illegally grabbing the land and destroying forest area that was reserved for wildlife, so they could claim it as their own property.

He said he asked district officials for help in resolving the land conflict, but the matter has not been addressed.

“We have tried our best at commune and district levels,” he said. “The district governors apologized to the villagers for being unable to help resolve the issue. He already has sent documentation to the provincial level for further action.”

Villager Neth Sreng said he twice filed complaints with the local court about the land grabs, but a solution has yet to be found.

The villagers will file complaints at the national level if the court fails to resolve the case, he said.

Reported by Ratha Visal for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Comments (2)

Anonymous Reader

Those villagers thought they are living in a democracy country. I am so sorry for them. Cambodia looks green from the outside, but it is still red from the inside ( similar to a water melon). Communists are trying to be nationalists, but they are not. Nobody could change their root. They are still bad to the bone.

Oct 30, 2015 10:29 AM

Anonymous Reader

Army is to protect the country and citizens, but this is not applied to Cambodian arm forces. These forces are the killing machines of the Hun Sen regime. So they can do what ever they want because they have the guns and they have no hesitation to kill. Remember early months of this year when Hun Sen used 911 Division solders and police to kill demonstrators. I am so sorry for those farmers, no matter where they take the matter to ( Provincial or national level), they never gotten any response and if they gather to protest, they would be arrested.

Oct 29, 2015 02:22 PM





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