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Oral Residents Flee Homes in Fear of Arrest

At least 50 families from about 312 families who were engaged in a land dispute in Oral town, Kampong Speu province are reportedly feeing from their homes and are hiding in a forest after learning that the provincial court had issued an arrest warrant for 36 villagers charged with living illegally on land belonging to other people.

The villagers alleged that 40 armed military and military police personnels fired warning shots, and destroyed their fences and forced them to dismantle their houses. They claimed they have lived there since 1997, and that now they are charged with living illegally on a land belonging to Ms. Chea Thavy.

Ms. Chea alleged that she has 7,000 hectares of land in Oral town. The villagers considered the November 14 action as the use of power to grab their lands when land is expensive.

Ms. Yim Thim was unhappy and claimed that the authorities mistreated her before court dicision. She said that this is an example of merchants using business tricks. Ms. Chea cannot be reached for comment.

Local military chief In Sothea who led the group going to the village charged the people of building houses illegally and disorderly on other people's properties, and that they do not have deeds.

Mr. Chap Nalivudh, Kampong Speu governor, said that he supports the provincial unit commander who implements the law in the region, and that the government gave orders to stop those people who live on government's land illegally.