Nearly 100 people from Battambang province’s Banan and Bavel districts demonstrated in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s home and the Ministry of Land Management yesterday, demanding the government remove soldiers allegedly occupying their social land concessions.
Village representative Rith Saren, 63, of Klaing Meas commune, said that nearly 100 villagers from 59 families attended the demonstration. In 2011, Saren said, the villagers received 152 hectares in social land concessions. However, a group of 30 to 40 soldiers using the land as a camp refused to cede it to the villagers.
“The soldiers did not agree,” Saren said. “We cleared it to grow crops and the government gave it to us.”
Land Management official Ol Sok Yos told the protesters to submit a petition asking the ministry to investigate.
Yin Mengly, the Banteay Meanchey coordinator for rights group Adhoc, confirmed the dispute had gone on for years, “but I don’t know [where] the soldiers come from”.
Chhum Socheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, could not be reached for comment.