Land grab families given deadline

Source: Khmer Times

A villager who grabbed land after seeing others do the same. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Nearly 300 families accused of grabbing state land to build huts near a canal in Kandal province have been given three days to dismantle the structures.

A statement from Arey Kasat commune chief Touch Savuth set the deadline and ordered an end to all illegal land grabbing in the area.

According to provincial police chief Eav Chamroeun, five groups of people grabbed the land, including 169 families from Arey Kasat village, 42 families living near Outum pagoda, 61 families living near Ksach pagoda, 15 families living in street carts, and 10 families from near Kompaun lake.

The families were accused of building wooden huts on four-metre square plots.

Land grabber Sorn Nimol said he had nowhere to build a house and saw other villagers constructing properties along the canal, so decided to join in.

He said he would leave if the government wanted to develop the land.

“If the state needs this land, they can take it back from me and I will not object,” Mr Nimol said.

He added that no one had encouraged him to grab the land, saying he simply followed other villagers.

Another land grabber who asked to remain anonymous also said he had taken the land of his own accord, although he claimed one of the villagers had rallied a group to build huts on the site.

“Villagers in Arey Kasat grabbed the land near Takot pagoda first,” he said, adding no one had stopped them, and most had already constructed their houses.

Suy Sopheap, who also attempted to build by the canal, said she had never planned to grab the land, but when she passed by and saw what people were doing, she followed their lead.

She added she knew it was illegal, but said she did it because she was poor and had 13 children.

Mr Nimol said when he first grabbed the land, local authorities said nothing but recorded his name and the details of other villagers accused of land grabbing.

“They came to collect our names and asked us to copy our ID cards for them and put our thumbprints on a letter,” he said.

Ms Savuth, the CNRP chief of Arey Kasat commune, denied promising the land to citizens after being made commune chief, as was alleged in a story published yesterday by the government-aligned media outlet Fresh News.

She asked Fresh News to find concrete evidence before publishing false allegations against her.

Ms Savuth said she had also heard a rumour that someone influential was behind the case.

According footage posted on Facebook, one of the accused land grabbers said they had been allocated the plots by local officials.

“We asked the police for this land to build houses,” she said.

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