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Kampong Thom Villagers Protest Land Grab

About 70 representatives from families in nine Kampong Thom villages met this week to protest an alleged land theft by a former ruling party commune chief.

The former chief, Nuon Daok, from Cralorng commune, has begun growing beans and building fences on public land that should serve the community's interest, villagers alleged.

The new chief, Phat Bunphiep, who belongs to the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, told VOA Khmer the people want their land back.

Villager Kha Luy said the old chief was using the land for himself but called the land "a public asset, not private property."

"Please do whatever can be done to take back this ball field and make it a place to continue to serve the public," villager Huth Samy said.

Nuon Daok, who is now the commune's second clerk, said he listed the land at the office of titles in 1995 and has grown crops there ever since.

When the new chief came into power, he began inciting people, Nuon Daok said, adding that he himself had filed a complaint in the courts.

"It depends on the law," he said. "If the law says that I should return the land to be state land, then I will return it."