Three families in Preah Sihanouk province, including that of a military veteran, are calling on army commander Hun Manet to resolve their long-standing land dispute against a local businessperson.
A complaint filed by the three families to Manet — Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son — says they lost their land in 2003 in Preah Sihanouk’s Stung Hav district.
The families have been given the runaround by local authorities and the Cambodian Human Rights Committee. The families say the land was taken in 2003 by local tycoon Cheam Phen and a 2007 investigation by authorities led to the dispute being falsely adjudicated as solved.
The Phnom Penh Post reported in 2013 that Hun Sen directed the land be given back to the residents, even though in 2007 the provincial court awarded the land to Phen.
But the disputants have still been unable to return to the land 10 years later.
“We are the victims. We have still lost the land for 20 years. I am renting a house to stay in because I have lost land and farmland,” said Chea Sovann, a military veteran who lost their right leg on duty.
Sovann said he was in Thailand on work when Phen took the land from him and the other families and bulldozed their homes. He said local authorities claimed the land was not occupied, which is why it was given to Phen’s company. At the time, 49 families were impacted by the land grab, Sovann said.
When he returned from Thailand it was too late. His children told him everything had been demolished.
“We would like to ask his excellency lieutenant general [Hun Manet] to intervene and help find a compromise to get my land back, which oknha Cheam Phen encroached on. So that I can occupy it legally and do farming,” Sovann said.
Sovann said he had already gone to all levels of government — National Assembly, Senate, Ministry of Land Management — and was hoping Manet would be able to help him.
“Please give the last hope for the life of a soldier in his last breath and his excellency is the successor of the CPP and future prime minister of each Cambodian person,” he said.
RCAF’s infantry spokesperson Mao Phalla said that he had not seen the complaint yet and that when it reached the unit it would be investigated by the relevant authorities.
Two Commerce Ministry-listed phone numbers for a “Cheam Phen,” who is linked to a Jinro alcohol importer, Bavet casino and a brewery, did not connect.
Land disputants routinely petition Prime Minister Hun Sen for intervention in their woes. Last year, Hun Sen selected Manet as his successor to eventually lead the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.