Protesters’ Roadblock in K Chhnang Pushes Governor to Step In

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Land protesters block National Road 5 on September 19, 2021. (Supplied)

After more than 200 protesters blocked National Road 5 between Pursat and Kampong Chhnang provinces on Sunday, provincial authorities said they would go to the Interior Ministry to try to resolve the land dispute.

The 200 protesters held banners and blocked traffic for more than two hours on Sunday. They live in Kampong Chhnang near the border with Pursat, and say Pursat authorities this year blocked them from using their farmland in Pursat. Pursat authorities have said they redistributed the farmland to their own province’s residents.

A resident of Kampong Chhnang’s Boribo district, Khem Ny, said his family had owned 2 hectares in Pursat’s Krakor district for decades, but had been disenfranchised by Pursat authorities.

“For my own family, if all my land is confiscated, my family will face serious problems with our livelihood because I farm and use the land. If all the land is confiscated? What can I do to farm, what can I do to feed my family?” Ny said.

Another resident in a similar situation, who declined to be named for fear of arrest, said two activists had previously been briefly detained by Pursat authorities for protesting. The families were accused of encroaching on state land even though they had used the land for decades, she said.

On Monday, Kampong Chhnang governor Sun Sovannarith said five representatives of the protesters had met with him in the morning. He would try to coordinate with Pursat officials, and ask the Interior Ministry to resolve any border issues between the two provinces, he said.

“First, I tell people to stop blocking the road because it is illegal. Second, I assigned the provincial working group to work with the Pursat provincial authorities to resolve this issue,” he said.

Pursat deputy governor Cheng Lai declined to comment on the case, referring questions to governor Mao Thornin, who could not be reached.

A May letter from Kong Sam Ol, Minister of the Royal Palace, to Interior Minister Sar Kheng describes the dispute in detail, saying it affects 572 families living in Boribo district, Kampong Chhnang. Those families were prevented from going to their farms in Pursat at the start of this year’s wet season, leading to protests, the letter says, seeking Kheng’s help to find a solution. A total of 1,661 hectares in Pursat had been confiscated from them, it says.

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