About 200 people representing more than 300 households in two districts in Koh Kong province yesterday gathered once again in front of the Land Management Ministry, demanding that the ministry speed up resolution of their years-long land dispute with several sugar companies.
Kuch Sokunthy, one of the representatives, said the ministry promised to resolve their case within a week after a petition was filed in April. She said that protestors from Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts returned after months of silence by the authorities.
“They said they would resolve the case but there’s nothing so far and we are afraid that they will keep postponing it until the election is complete,” she said. “They could change their minds to not solving it at all after the election, so that’s why we are here now to make sure that it happens right now.”
Ms Sokunthy said that the dispute between Koh Kong Sugar Industry and Koh Kong Plantation and the residents is over 1,300 hectares of land.
She said that residents have been fighting for their right to live on their land since 2006. She said that this particular group of protestors did not previously demand any form of compensation, fearing retribution.
However, after seeing others demonstrating and getting what they had asked for, the villagers were mobilised to take action.
Tep Thon, undersecretary of state at the Labour Ministry who originally spearheaded the case, said the ministry has set up a committee to check and verify the identities of people living in the area against existing data.
“Provincial level officials have already prepared to do it,” he said. “Maybe by the end of May we can begin the process to check and begin drafting a resolution.”
In March, the Land Management Ministry solved a major land dispute in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts by providing 175 families with three hectares of land and $2,500 each, while another 200 families received one hectare of land.