Cambodia: Villagers, soldiers in land battle

Local Phan Sina (centre right) on Friday confronts soldiers she accuses of attempting to steal land she has cultivated for years. Adhoc
Local Phan Sina (centre right) on Friday confronts soldiers she accuses of attempting to steal land she has cultivated for years
11 April 2017 – Villagers involved in a long-running land dispute in Kratie province’s Sambor district have prevented soldiers from building a fence around disputed land that the army intends to use as a sniper training ground.

The two-year-old conflict surrounding 20 hectares in O’Krieng commune’s O’Kandie village between villagers and the military’s Regiment 42-Ngor flared up again on Friday morning when 10 soldiers, one of them armed with a rifle, brought material to build a fence around the land, which locals have been cultivating since 1997, according to rights activists and villagers.

“I stood in front of [the soldiers’] tractor. I told them to shoot me, but they did not,” said villager Phan Sina, who belongs to one of the six affected families.

Sina said soldiers had been trying to use her 180-by-600-metre plot for sniper training since 2015. She said land titling volunteers measured her land in 2013 as part of a nationwide reform effort and issued a receipt for her, though she is still waiting for the actual title because of a complaint by the soldiers.

“The soldiers accused us of grabbing their land. I said that if I did grab the land, you would have beaten or handcuffed me already,” she said, in turn accusing the soldiers of slashing hundreds of her cashew trees.

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