Nearly 300 residents representing more than 500 families locked in several land disputes in Koh Kong province gathered yesterday to once again petition the Land Management Ministry to speed up resolutions after years of alleged inaction by the government.
Preap Rotha, a resident representative 210 families locked in a land dispute case with Union Development Group in Koh Kong province, said the dispute is over 8,516 hectares of land and the issue has been ongoing since 2008.
They came to demand national intervention to halt the company’s projects and redistribute land to villagers, she said.
“We would like to ask the Land Management Ministry to cut the land from the development project and help us because we have suffered so much injustice,” she said. “The company plans to evict people from villages as they have cleared people’s land in the past without any compensation.”
Ms Rotha said that her group was joined by an additional group representing more than 50 families locked in another land dispute with tycoon Ly Yong Phat.
She said that the issue has been ongoing for the past decade and that the dispute saw two people jailed for months after the authorities discovered they had been living on reclaimed land.
Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot said that the ministry accepted the petitions and that the inter-ministerial working group would return with a response “soon”.
“For this dispute, there is a committee led by the Environment Ministry to inspect the area,” he said. “People will just have to cooperate and wait for the working group to work first.”
Orn Phearak, deputy governor of Koh Kong province, met with demonstrators and said that their request to cut back on land development is beyond the jurisdiction of the province, adding that only the inter-ministerial working group can solve the problem.
Koh Kong province residents responded by crowding into Wat Chas pagoda in Phnom Penh’s Chroy Changva district pending ministry resolution, which they said will take at least one week.
Residents said they will again gather at government offices should a solution not be promptly provided.