Security forces employed by a private company yesterday allegedly destroyed crops belonging to villagers who are entrenched in a long running land dispute in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district.
Ang Vannak, a villager living in Kiri Sakor district’s Koh Sdach commune, said about 30 UDG security guards used two excavators yesterday morning to clear villagers’ crops on two hectares of land that belonged to five families.
“More than 200 coconut and mango trees planted by the villagers were destroyed. Even though we begged them to stop, they still destroyed them. They claimed the area belongs to the company now,” he said.
Another villager named Poeuk Loun said there were at least 50 coconuts on one tree and those crops supported their families’ livelihoods.
“We depend on those trees to support our livelihoods. They should have found a solution for us first before destroying those trees,” she said.
She added there was no violence because the villagers did not want to see anyone get hurt.
“We did not cause any violence. We just begged them to stop. We planted those trees many years ago to become big like this and now they’re destroyed,” she said.
Nhiep Sam Oeun, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said he was upset that company security guards had come to destroy the villagers’ crops.
“The villagers have not gotten any solution from the company. Why did the security guards clear the land? We appeal to the authority to immediately intervene and stop it,” he said.
Cheang Lang, a UDG representative, urged villagers to file a complaint with the court if they felt the company was stealing their land.
“If the villagers accuse the company of ruining their land, please file a lawsuit with the court,” he said.
Khim Chandy, Kiri Sakor district governor, said there was still no solution in the dispute between villagers and the company.
“The upper level authority is finding a solution for their land dispute and the local authority is intervening to help,” he said.
Early last month, 14 families from Kiri Sakor district asked the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Land Management to intervene in their land dispute with UDG.
The 14 families, from Prek Khsach and Phnhi Meas communes, delivered petitions to the ministries.
They 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 affected villagers demanded $245,000 in compensation from the company and asked the ministries for the 46 hectares of disputed land.
In 2008, Chinese-owned UDG was granted a 45,000-hectare land concession from the government in Koh Kong’s Botum Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts.