Police chief points to CNRP in land conflict

Source: Phnom Penh Post

Villagers gather in an attempt to reclaim government land on which they intend to build their houses yesterday in Kandal province. Yon Sineat

In yet another clash between newly elected opposition commune officials and their largely pro-ruling party superiors, Kandal’s provincial police chief has accused the Cambodia National Rescue Party of backing villagers who officials say have illegally grabbed land in the province’s Lvea Em district.

In a message circulated on WhatsApp, Eav Chamroeun, the provincial police chief, blamed the CNRP for the dispute in Akrei Khsat commune’s eponymous village, where about 300 families have laid claim to a strip of roadside property.

“After the CNRP became the commune chief, when they won, there was village disorder and land grabbing in Akrei Khsat, in Lvea Em district,” Chamroeun wrote.

However, the CNRP commune chief, Touch Savuth, and the villagers claiming the land yesterday denied there was any opposition role in the dispute.

Construction worker Mo Chenda, among dozens of residents at the site yesterday, said the group had acted on their own and were, in fact, stopping the owner of the adjacent block from filling in a roadside canal.

Chenda said the group, who were confronted by police yesterday morning, wanted the land carved up into small blocks for residents to build on.“They should help poor villagers,” he said.

A representative of the adjacent land’s owner, however, said the villagers were trying to take state land.

Police officials speak to villagers who are suspected of building houses on government land on Sunday night in Kandal province. Photo supplied

The CNRP won an unprecedented 500 communes at the June local elections and has since seen periodic friction between its chiefs and the incumbent bureaucracy, where the ruling Cambodian People’s Party remains firmly entrenched.

Earlier this month, a Kampong Cham CNRP commune chief was threatened with legal action for building a canal that his superiors claimed had damaged a road.

Another opposition chief in Battambang was warned by authorities to stop building a drainage system because it allegedly did not comply with the town’s urban plan. Both projects had the support of residents.
Savuth, the chief of Akrei Khsat commune, yesterday dismissed the claim she was fomenting unrest.

“If they make these allegations, they should provide evidence,” she said.

Reached later in the day, Provincial Police Chief Chamroeun appeared to backpedal, maintaining that “someone was behind the villagers”, and that he was told they were “CNRP activists”.

“The Lvea Em District Hall will hold a meeting tomorrow, and if we find out who is behind the illegal land grab we will take legal action.”

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