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Blame game over decade-long Tboung Khmum land dispute

Buth Sela / Khmer Times Share:
Residents in Tboung Khmum province’s Dambe district protesting over land disputes in 2019. KT/Siv Channa

Director of Tboung Khmum Provincial Council Seak Leng said he is proud that the almost decade-long land dispute between villagers and a private company in Trapeang Pring commune has been resolved, but has blamed opposition parties and Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) for delaying the process.

Leng, speaking at a press conference yesterday, said: “The Tboung Khmum governor and provincial council suggested we should change our strategy to solve the problem. We tried to reduce the amount of opposition day by day until we succeeded.”

“We have been working to solve this problem since before Tboung Khmum province was born. Our authorities have worked together to solve it,” he said.

However, Human Rights Adhoc senior investigator Soeng Sen Karuna denied the allegations and said it’s “unacceptable” to say that NGOs obstructed solving the dispute.

He said authorities often blame their own failure to resolve land disputes on the people, the opposition and NGOs. “I would like to call for reconsideration over these allegations.”

He added that Adhoc followed the rules, and only intervened in the disputes by explaining legal procedures and providing legal advice to those involved.

“We did nothing more than that. The benefits are for the people and the authorities are there to solve the problem,” Sen Karuna said.

“Civil society organisations have no intention to have power like political parties. We work for social causes so that we can all live together,” he said.

However, he added that national officials should not let provincial authorities do what they want and there should be an independent commission set up to look into why people are still protesting over the land disputes.

Tha Lida, a villager involved, said the land dispute is not over yet.

“There are 85 families that are still protesting due to the recent arrests of several land activists, ” he said.

“I request the Tbong Khmum land management department to conduct an investigation or to hold a public forum related to the land dispute. People have not yet received proper compensation from the company,” Lida said.

He urged Tbong Khmum Provincial Court to drop the charges and release all activists involved in the land dispute and to not restrict the right to ask for what they have lost.

The dispute involves more than 700 hectares of  land, affecting more than 100 families in the province.

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