Villagers involved in a decade-long land dispute in Koh Kong province, who have repeatedly travelled to the Land Management Ministry in Phnom Penh for intervention, were yesterday briefly blocked from doing so again as they continue to push for a resolution.
Chim Srey Thoun, a representative of 302 families in the province, said that villagers involved in the land dispute with Koh Kong Sugar Industry and Koh Kong Plantation have lost faith in provincial authorities and again wanted to seek intervention from the national level.
Ms Srey Thoun said security forces attempted to prevent her group from travelling to the capital to seek intervention.
“The police and other security forces blocked us in three to four locations in order to prevent us from going to Phnom Penh,” she said. “We wanted to travel to Phnom Penh in order to follow up with the Land Management Ministry because we haven’t gotten any information at the provincial level.”
Ms Srey Thoun said that villagers were earlier asked to to fill out their land information, but the authorities never followed up, adding that her group eventfully found its way to Phnom Penh after discussions with authorities in the province.
Toun Sela, Sre Ambel district governor in Koh Kong, denied using security forces to block vehicles carrying the protesters.
“We were concerned that their trip would disrupt traffic in Phnom Penh, but they did not listen,” Mr Sela said. “The provincial level has been studying the land data but due to some duplicated names of villagers we have to inspect things closer.”
Mr Sela noted that a meeting between the provincial governor and villagers has already been set for Wednesday.
The dispute between the 302 families and the sugar giants has been ongoing since 2006.
Meanwhile, three additional groups of villagers also rallied in front of the Land Management Ministry office yesterday, asking for the authorities to intervene in their land dispute cases as well.
The groups were comprised of representatives for 212 families in Kampong Thom province’s Santuk district; 41 families in Preah Sihanouk province’s Lek Mouy commune; and 253 families in Preah Vihear province’s Kantout commune.
They said that their land disputes involve authorities and high-ranking officials in those provinces.
Heal Mean, a representative of the 41 families, said that their dispute is with Chan Kang, an official with the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port authority.
Seng Lot, Land Management Ministry spokesman, could not be reached for comment.