Khmer Times/Pech Sotheary Wednesday, 22 March 2017 975 views

Families call for return of land

A group of 20 people representing 554 families locked in a 10-year land dispute yesterday submitted a petition asking the government to end the lengthy conflict.
 

The families, from Samroang town in Oddar Meanchey province, want help from officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Ministry of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction.
 

Smin Tek, a representative for the group, said government provided an economic land concession to Asia’s biggest sugar producer, Mitr Phol, in 2007. That concession was fulfilled through three local firms – Angkor Sugar company, Tonle Sugar and Va Light.
 

Mr. Tek  claimed that the concession led to forced evictions from more than 2,546 hectares of farmland and destroyed the livelihoods of locals.
 

The concessions were cancelled two years ago and the land was given back to the Agriculture Ministry, according to a letter from the Council of Ministers dated March 13, 2015.
 

But locals say they are still unable to return to the land.
 

Mr. Tek said: “We were told the companies had been removed, but until now, the authorities have still not given the land back. We’re asking the ministry to give us the same land back that we had before the dispute.”
 

The petition lists how the concession to the sugar companies caused many problems for the community, such as increased levels of debt among those who lost their livelihoods without concrete details provided.
 

Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Lor Reaksmey said the ministry had received the petition.
 

“My officials are already working to solve the problem,” he said.
 

Eang Vuthy, the executive director of Equitable Cambodia, said the disputed land had always belonged to villagers and farmers.
 

He called on the government to return the land and end the long battle with locals now the sugar companies have left.

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