by Ridan Sun

Mrs. Toun Seng, a 55-year-old resident of the Tamol Leu community, shared her harrowing experience of being arrested and imprisoned for four months after raising concerns about burning garbage on her own land. Despite the hardships she has faced, Mrs. Seng is grateful for the opportunity to speak about her experiences with land grabbing issues.

Mrs. Seng explained that her family, along with four other neighboring families, has been struggling with land grabbing by local authorities who have seized their land and allocated it to other villagers in the same community. This conflict began in early 2022, with only the Seng and Sophum families daring to protest.

On January 29th, 2022, the district police inspector, in cooperation with commune police, arrested Mrs. Seng and sent her to prison in Kampong Chhnang province. She stated, “The incident happened because I set fire to the garbage on my land, but they accused me of burning their straw along with three hand-tractors.” Despite her requests for a provincial court to inspect the site, her pleas were ignored. She was imprisoned for four months and 27 days before being released on bail, thanks to the intervention of LICADHO.

Mrs. Seng mentioned that the other three families did not dare to file complaints, as the authorities threatened them, stating that if they did so, they would not be allowed to live on their land.

Mr. Brak Sophum, a 60-year-old resident facing similar struggles, expressed how the land dispute has further impoverished his family. The ongoing conflict has hindered their ability to do business, and their children have become homeless, making survival increasingly difficult. He lamented the negligence of the commune authorities, who have failed to address the problem, preventing his family from farming on their land. Moreover, a fence has been built around their property, rendering it inaccessible.

Mr. Sophum, along with the other affected families, urges high-ranking government officials to visit the conflict site and help find justice for those who have suffered. They hope the government will empower female victims to speak out and seek justice. Additionally, they call for the intervention of the Royal Government to hold sub-national officials accountable for their actions and work towards finding justice for victims like the Seng and Sophum families.