Fourteen families from Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district have asked the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Land Management to intervene in their land dispute with the Union Development Group.
The 14 families, from Prek Khsach and Phnhi Meas communes, delivered their petition to the ministries on Friday.
It claimed that on the nights of January 11 and 12, a UDG representative named Kim Leng led about 60 company security guards, accompanied by military forces, to tear down eight houses and destroy about 26,000 trees they had planted on 46 hectares of land.
The petition added villagers had cleared the forest to occupy the land since 2015 because they saw the land was vacant. Company representatives and security guards did not allow them to harvest their crops, which caused them serious losses, it said.
The affected villagers demanded $245,000 in compensation from the company and asked the ministries for the 46 hectares of disputed land.
Sem Thy, one of the affected villagers, said yesterday they had asked Koh Kong provincial authorities to intervene in the past, but there was no response so they came to submit a petition at the ministries.
“Please ministries, help to resolve this for us. Intervene with this Chinese company and get them to pay compensation for destroying our crops and our houses,” he said.
An official from the Land Management Ministry named Bunnea, who took the petitions, said they had been forwarded to ministry leaders for review.
“We have to wait first because the letter has just been submitted, so we do not know about a solution yet,” he said. “Generally, when we receive a complaint, the ministry will assign a working team to investigate.”
Their complaint has just been submitted, so we don’t know what action the leaders will take,” he added.
Mr Leng, the UDG representative, could not be reached for comment.
Koh Kong Provincial Court recently issued a press release saying the protest between villagers and UDG security guards had been non-violent, and provincial authorities had asked the company and residents to avoid any acts that might lead to violence.