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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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.”

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Cambodia: Villagers torch ELC guard posts in land dispute protest

A Green Rubber company checkpoint burns in a Preah Vihear ELC on Monday after protesting villagers set it on fire. Photo supplied

A Green Rubber company checkpoint burns in a Preah Vihear ELC on Monday after protesting villagers set it on fire.

23 March –  More than 200 people from five villages in Preah Vihear and Siem Reap provinces on Monday burned two rubber company guard posts to the ground in protest of the planned clearing of at least 1,000 hectares of disputed farmland and forests.

In 2012, the government granted a 70-year, 6,000-hectare economic land concession (ELC) spanning both provinces inside the Kulen Prom-Tep Wildlife Sanctuary to Ly Chhuong Construction and Import Export (later renamed Green Rubber).

Following protests from villagers, who claimed they had lived on the land since 1998, the government excised 473 hectares from the concession in 2014. However, other villagers have continued to contest parts of the concession. In total, 2,000 hectares remain in dispute.

Pang Yiet, Kulen’s district governor, said that authorities and company representatives met residents of five villages on Monday, telling them that the company this year planned to clear 1,000 hectares, including land on which some of their farms were located.

The villagers reacted by setting fire to two of Green Rubber’s outposts in the ELC, he said.“We told them in the morning and they burned things down in the afternoon; they did not listen to us,” the governor said yesterday.

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Cambodia: Villagers, riot cop in fight over Preah Vihear burial site

Authorities talk to villagers in Preah Vihear province earlier this week after community members were summoned for questioning regarding at land dispute. Photo supplied

18 March – More than 200 Preah Vihear families are locked in a land dispute with a Phnom Penh police officer over a 7-hectare burial site, with villagers alleging the officer drew his service pistol on them.

Um Vanna is a Phnom Penh-based officer in the National Police’s riot squad. To the protests of local residents, Vanna lay claim to a burial site in Preah Vihear’s Sangkum Thmei district early last year.

Sun Chanda, 31, lives nearby and is among the villagers who oppose Vanna’s claim to what they say is the resting place of their ancestors.

“Vanna wants people to hand the ancestral graveyard to him for his private property, but we want to preserve it as collective property,” said Chanda.

Chanda is one of eight villagers accused in a lawsuit brought by Vanna in December of “violently grabbing and intentionally vandalising” his property.

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Cambodia: Log, truck seized by community

14 March – 14 March – A group of Kuoy ethnic minorities commandeered a truck attempting to move a huge log out of Preah Rokar community forest in Preah Vihear’s Cham Ksan district on Friday.

According to community member Min Yut, close to 50 villagers surrounded the truck and six workers from a company called Ratanak Sambath. The employees fled, leaving the truck and two chainsaws behind, he said.

A representative from the company later negotiated the return of the truck, in return for $1,500, Yut added.

“We agreed and took the compensation to use for patrolling our forest,” he said, adding that the log and chainsaws were impounded.

The company could not be reached for comment yesterday and local authorities said they were not yet aware of the case.

According to Yut, this was the second illegal logging case involving Ratanak Sambath this year.

In February, he said, the company had negotiated the return of two trucks impounded by the community group in a similar incident for $800.

Cambodia: Villagers blockade road to protest land grab

Ethnic Kuoy villagers in Preah Vihear province block Rui Feng trucks and machinery from travelling along a road earlier this week. Photo supplied

Ethnic Kuoy villagers in Preah Vihear province block Rui Feng trucks and machinery from travelling along a road earlier this week.

4 March – Following a two-day roadblock protest by residents of six villages in Preah Vihear province, district authorities have inspected land allegedly stolen by Chinese sugar cane producer Rui Feng.

Rui Feng was granted 8,841 hectares in a 2011 economic land concession (ELC), but ethnic Kuoy villagers allege that the company has been pushing the boundaries of its ELC and encroaching on their farmland.

Some 200 residents of six Kuoy-majority villages in Chey Sen and Chheb districts on Tuesday began to obstruct a road used by the sugar company, said Luot Sang, a land issues coordinator with NGO Ponlork Khmer, who was present.

Villager Huoth Maly, 35, said 500 hectares of farmland have been bulldozed by Rui Feng since 2013, despite some villagers possessing land titles.

“Some of our villagers’ farmland has a land title, but the company still bulldozes it to plant sugar,” Maly said. “If there is no solution, we pledge to conduct a bigger protest.” An official had threatened to send him to prison, he added..

Cambodia: Factory boss calls scuffle ‘murder attempt’

3 March – A boss at a garment factory in Kampong Chhnang province has accused the husband and a friend of a recently fired employee of chasing down her car and trying to kill her.

Thhey Kunthea, administrative chief of the Chinese-owned Horizon Outdoor garment factory, filed an attempted murder complaint at the provincial police station on Monday night against dismissed employee Som Chreum’s husband, Phon Vanna, 35, and friend Khem Chhoun, 47, according to provincial police chief Srey Sitha. Both are being held at provincial court.

Vanna and Chhoun had pursued Kunthea’s car on a motorbike until it became stuck in a traffic jam and then blocked its path, Sitha said.

“The men opened the door and took the administrative chief out of the car. So there was a physical argument,” he said. “Thhey Kunthea got injured on her arm and left-hand side.”

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