Cambodia: Preah Vihear villagers seize company’s bulldozers

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Preah Vihear villagers block Rui Feng bulldozers from clearing disputed land last month.
10 June – Authorities in Preah Vihear province’s Chheb district yesterday backed villagers who seized bulldozers owned by a Chinese company that was clearing community land and has long been embroiled in land disputes in the area, according to local residents.

About 100 villagers took possession of two bulldozers owned by the Rui Feng company and detained the drivers, who they said were clearing property the community uses as grazing land, said villager Sath Say, 63.

The incident was not the first time villagers had stopped and held machinery owned by the company and its affiliates.

“They had promised not to clear that area and they’ve cleared almost all of our forest . . . They even bulldozed the demarcation posts – they cleared about a dozen hectares,” Say said.

“The district governor, police, military and company came to compromise with the villages . . . They promised not to do it again and if they do, [the authorities] said villagers can do whatever they want to.”

Reached yesterday, district police chief Chhuon Mady said the district governor had resolved the problem, but was unable to give further details about the incident.

When asked who was at fault in the incident, Mady said he didn’t know. “I was only checking on security.”

Representatives of the company, which was granted an 8,841-hectare economic land concession in 2011 to cultivate sugarcane, rubber and acacia, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The company’s concession, which is surrounded by ELCs owned by its sister companies, has been trimmed by 1,000 hectares in a bid to quell ongoing protests by local villagers.

Woman arrested over Kratie land protests

7 June – A woman was arrested in Kratie on Sunday for allegedly obstructing public officials while protesting the seizure of her and 64 other families’ land, which is slated to be given away as part of a social land concession.

Lun Sophat, an officer at Kratie provincial police headquarters, confirmed 60-year-old Sreng Pho’s arrest and said she was transferred to the provincial court for further questioning yesterday.

Ouy Phally, a community representative in Proma village (located in Chhlong district’s Kampong Damrei commune) said 65 families had been at loggerheads with the authorities since the start of the year, when it was announced 100 hectares were going to be confiscated.

“The authorities came to take our land, these lands belong to us. We have to obstruct the officials to stop them doing anything to our land. We must to protect our land,” Phally said.

Provincial Adhoc coordinator Heng Chiev Kun said Pho had gone willingly to the police station for questioning, adding that Adhoc would follow the case further since she had not yet been released.

Pho’s daughter, Sovan Klong, 35, yesterday pleaded for her mother’s release.

“Our farm is 5 hectares, we’re crop farmers,” Klong said. “I need her back.”

Proma has been the site of land disputes before. In May 2012, a 14-year-old girl was shot dead by armed officials forcibly evicting 1,000 families from Proma village to make way for Casotim, an agro-business company.

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