Villagers occupying state land on a Mekong river island in Phnom Penh’s Chbar Ampov district are refusing to back down amid confrontations and negotiations with authorities, pointing to nearby mansions and land claimed by a senator and police chief who aren’t getting similarly harassed.
They say dozens of police, military police and district security guards descended on the area on Saturday, removing banners put up by land disputants and accusing them of being “rebellious.”
Heng Vutha, one of the residents, said that one of the villagers was asked to delete pictures of authorities’ activities from their camera, and that the officers had “pressured” the people to hand back the land to the state.
The villagers were told to come to the commune office on Tuesday with land documents, Vutha said.
On Tuesday, the villagers met with the deputy district governor and asked him to visit the land in question and draw up land titles for them.
“We have little hope,” Vutha said.
They pointed out to him that National Police chief Neth Savoeun was pumping sand around the island nearby, and there were mansions on the land not being moved. A local official said last month that in addition to Savoeun, Senator Kok An also claimed land in the area.
“Why do the authorities allow them to build on the same state land?” Vutha said. “But when people like us try to build a house, they come to stop us and do not allow us to do it.”
Chorn David, another resident, was more optimistic. He said officials had promised a solution for them and had recognized that people lived there for 10 years.
“I am very happy with their commitment,” David said.
The deputy district governor, Horth Kimny, said he would take the villagers’ request to his superiors.
Kbal Koh commune chief Khy Song said officials needed to see some documentation.
“We wanted to see whether they had any [land] documents to show, but none of them brought any documents, and we do not know how to solve this,” Song said.