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Villagers want dispute resolution

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The villagers want a resolution to their land dispute with a sugar company. Supplied

About 100 residents from Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts gathered to protest and block the road of Koh Kong Sugar Industry to demand the company, local authorities and relevant ministries expedite a resolution to end their land dispute.

Phav Nherng, one of the protesters, said about 100 families have been waiting for several months for a solution from relevant ministries and provincial authorities, but there has been no response.

They gathered to protest again yesterday, blocking National Road 48 and the company road, to demand that the government and the company resolve the dispute as soon as possible.

“The Minister of Land Management promised that his subordinates would cooperate with local authorities to settle it, but there has only been registration of land information and the taking of population statistics. It’s been quiet,” she said.

“We use the land for the benefit of our families. If the settlement is prolonged year after year, how can we support our livelihoods?”

The protesters threatened to travel on foot to Phnom Penh to seek further intervention from relevant ministries if a solution was not found.

Mithona Phouthorng, governor of Koh Kong province, could not be reached for comment, nor could representatives of Koh Kong Sugar Industry.

Deputy provincial governor Orn Phearak, who is in charge of land dispute resolution, refused to comment on the phone, saying he could only meet at the Provincial Hall to provide information.

Last month, Land Management Minister Chea Sophara said a working group was pushing to resolve land disputes for residents in Koh Kong, Preah Vihear and Kampong Speu provinces.

“The working group will successfully resolve the land disputes with companies that have economic land concessions to produce sugar for export,” he said.

Nheab Sam Oeun, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc who monitored the protest, said there was no violence despite protesters being met by about 50 police officers.

He strongly pressed the government, relevant ministries and institutions to take urgent action to speed up the resolution of the land dispute.

“This land dispute has been ongoing for more than 10 years. The people affected have always faced difficulties and their livelihoods get even worse by protesting,” he said.

“Therefore, we ask authorities and relevant officials to come take action and resolve it for them as soon as possible.”

According to the protesters, about 100 families remain in the land dispute with Heng Huy Development, Koh Kong Sugar Industry and Koh Kong Plantation on more than 700 hectares of land. The dispute had 175 families originally and has been ongoing since 2006.

In previous settlements, villagers accepted three hectares of land and compensation of $2,500 per family to end the dispute.

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