A Change of Guard

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Saturday 21 March 2009

Thai soldiers forbid Khmer farmers from growing rice in the lands they owned for over 10 years

Koh Santepheap newspaper
20th March, 2009
Reported in English by Khmerization

Khmer farmers living in O'Chrov district in Banteay Meanchey province claimed that Thai soldiers came to forbid them from growing rice on their ricefields.

Mr. Po Nuon, 49, from Seila Khmer village, O'Bei Choan commune in O'Chrov district of Banteay Meanchey province told Koh Santepheap on 18th March that at 4 pm on 17th March, two Thai soldiers armed with AK riffles and a Thai civilian armed with a machete came to stop his tractor from ploughing the field. They told him that if he wanted to farm on the land he must talk to their superiors first.

Mr. Po Nuon said that he had already ploughed 2 of his 7 hectares land he had cleared and owned since 1993. He said that Thai soldiers not only forbid him from toiling his lands, but they also forbid many villagers from toiling their lands. He said Thai soldiers had forbidden Khmer farmers not to grow rice as deep as 300 metres from the borderlines. He said that Thai soldiers forbid Khmer from growing rice on the lands totalling more than 100 hectares. He added that those lands are located one kilometre north of the village, opposite the "K-5" walls, built by conscripted Khmer labourers during the 1980s Cambodian civil war, and the lands are located behind a Cambodian natural creek (used as a Khmer-Thai borderline under the 1907 treaty).

Mr. Yim Pov, 42, had concurred Mr. Po Nuon's account. He said that the matter had been reported to Cambodian police and border soldiers.

Maj. Douk Savath, deputy commander of border unit 503, told Koh Santepheap on 19th March that, after he received the reports from the villagers, he immediately sent two soldiers to the spot. The meeting had been scheduled for the next morning, but when he led 6 soldiers to the spot the next morning, the Thai side din't show up for the meeting.

Khmer villagers said that they have been toiling on these lands for more than a decade after they had cleared the lands off bushes in 1993. And no Thai soldier had ever come to forbid them, until now.

At the time this article went to press, there are reports that Thai soldiers had returned to the spot and have said to the Khmer villagers that there is no prohibition and that they can now grow rice on their lands. Khmer border officials said that they will return to the spot to see the situation for themselves.

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