Land dispute villagers told not to march in Phnom Penh

Source: Khmer Times

Petitioners said the district chief had cleared land to build a road. Supplied

Security guards in Phnom Penh yesterday stopped villagers from Oddar Meanchey province from marching to submit a petition to the government.
The petition, which relates to a land dispute, was to be handed to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, the National Assembly, the Interior Ministry and the Land Management Ministry.
Guards in Daun Penh district said the 30 villagers representing 122 families were not allowed to march because they posed a threat to security in the capital.
They had walked from Wat Chas pagoda in Chroy Changvar district and were blocked near Wat Phnom in Daun Penh.
The villagers, from O Tameng village, Anlong Veng district, said the land dispute related to land clearances carried out by the district chief.
Sat Bora, a representative of the group, said district chief Nguon Lin had cleared more than 400 hectares of their land to construct a road.
“We came to Phnom Penh to submit our petition and were going to do it on foot because we are poor and cannot afford transport,” he said.
“We did not come to protest, but to ask the Prime Minister to help us because we have lived on this land for many years.”
A Daun Penh security guard said the authorities had not banned the villagers from submitting the petition but they would not be allowed to walk as a group because of security concerns.
He said: “They cannot walk as a crowd to deliver the petition, but they could take tuk tuks.”
The citizens raised enough money to pay for transport as the security guard suggested and submitted their petitions by 4pm yesterday.
Mr Lin said he knew nothing about the protesters and suggested they might be migrants wrongfully claiming the land.
He said his authorities were working on a plan to clear 1,000 hectares of land in the area and divide it into plots for the poor.
“I don’t know where the people who are submitting this petition came from,” he said.
Sia Phearum, executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, said land disputes risked damaging the ruling party if they were not solved before the commune elections.

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