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Land dispute with tycoon settled

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
The families had been embroiled in a land dispute for more than a decade. KT/Mai Vireak

The decade-long land dispute between some 400 families and a company owned by tycoon Ly Yong Phat was solved yesterday when the government and the company came to terms and allocated more than 800 hectares of land to the villagers.

Representatives of the nearly 400 families from two districts in Koh Kong province, the Koh Kong Sugar Company and government officials participated in a meeting at the Ministry of Land Management yesterday to resolve the dispute.

A villager thumbprints an agreement accepting compensation from the Koh Kong Sugar Company. KT/Mai Vireak

It was attended by officials from the ministries of land management, environment, commerce, and agriculture, as well as the Koh Kong provincial governor, the EU ambassador to Cambodia, representatives of sugarcane plantation companies owned by Mr Yong Phat and civil society representatives.

A total of 175 families agreed to accept three hectares of land with $2,500 for each family while 200 families accepted 1.5 hectares for each family, according to a Ministry of Land Management statement.

The ministry said the company agreed with the government to carve out 825 hectares of land from their economic land concession in Sre Ambel district’s Chikhor Loeu commune.

Chairing the meeting, Land Management Minister Chea Sophara instructed Koh Kong provincial authorities and the land management department to be ready to provide plots of land to all 375 families.

Mr Sophara asked the people to cooperate with authorities to sign contracts accepting the settlement and withdraw all complaints.

“The 200 families who came here, please provide thumbprints to withdraw all complaints and complete this paperwork. Please fill in all the documents,” he said. “For the 175 families, please accept the money to end the dispute.”

“The Cambodian government gives me the right as Senior Minister and Land Management Minister to solve the land dispute with this sugarcane plantation. I am working to end this dispute so that people’s livelihoods will be improved,” Mr Sophara said.

Prum Khim, one of the representatives of the 200 families, said he was satisfied with the deal since they had been struggling for years.

“It makes me happy. I have waited for more than 10 years and today I see the solution,” the 44-year-old said. “I would like to ask the government to urge the authorities to measure the plots of land and give land titles to the people as soon as possible.”

Phav Nherng, one of the representatives of the 175 families, said the government should build adequate infrastructure such as roads, monasteries and health centres at the new location.

A representative of Koh Kong Sugar Industry Co who represented Mr Yong Phat said he was very happy to see the dispute come to an end.

“I congratulate this solution, but I ask for a complete end to this problem – that it’s not just for a month or two and then issues arise again,” the rep said. “It would be unacceptable because there is agreement on today’s solution so nothing is left to be worked out.”

George Edgar, EU ambassador to Cambodia, lauded the solution to the long-running land dispute between the villagers and sugarcane plantation companies.

About 375 families were locked in land disputes on more than 2,147 hectares of land in Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts since 2006, after which they regularly protested for years.

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