Kratie villagers, soldiers in land row

By: Phak Seangly

Six families in Kratie have accused military officers of stealing 20 hectares of their land, destroying their crops and threatening them with rifles.

The families, backed by rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that they started clearing the land for cultivation in 1997, with the blessing of local authorities. In 2009, the military’s Division 42-Ngor borrowed the land to use as a firing range for sniper training.

In 2013, when local officials were about to issue land titles to the villagers, soldiers allegedly filed a complaint to halt the process, claiming that the land belonged to the military.

“Since then, we cannot cultivate the land,” said Phan Sina, a member of one of the families.

Din Khanny, an observer with Adhoc – with whom villagers filed a complaint in August – said that local authorities had recognised the villagers’ right to the land, but provincial authorities offered the land to the soldiers without inspecting the site.

But Lieutenant Colonel Sun Y, head of a brigade attached to 42-Ngor, who filed a complaint against Sina, denied the families’ allegations.

“Our request was signed by local to provincial authorities. They did a study with the landowners . . . I was stationed here since 2006 and no one came to take the land.