Nearly 100 residents representing 210 families in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district that are in a dispute with Chinese company Union Development Group gathered in front of the Land Management Ministry once again yesterday to demand that officials settle their cases.
Veng Hout, a resident representative, said yesterday that last month villagers requested the Land Management Ministry to step in on their behalf.
However, as of Saturday, neither the provincial authorities nor the ministry had provided a solution, prompting their return to the ministry’s office yesterday.
“The provincial side cannot solve it and said that we’re not villagers living there,” Mr Hout said. “We have lived there since the 80s, and companies only began investing in the area in 2008.”
Another representative Tith Ten said that while they were on their way to the gathering in the capital, Koh Kong provincial authorities prevented their vehicles from making the journey.
Ms Ten said that her group resisted the blockade and began walking in search of other means of getting to the ministry.
“I am so hurt that the authorities tried to block us, but we still overcame the blockade and managed to get to the ministry to show them that the provincial level did not help or resolve our conflict,” she said.
According to residents, 26 out of the 210 families are locked in a separate land dispute with Koh Kong Sugar Industry and Koh Kong Plantation, while the other 184 families are in dispute with Union Development Group.
Sok Sothy, deputy provincial governor, denied the allegations made by the protestors. He said that provincial authorities tried to come to a solution, but noted that the cases are beyond the provincial jurisdiction.
He said that when a company invests, ministries get involved in fine-tuning a deal for all stakeholders.
“We’re trying to coordinate in order to find a solution for them,” Mr Sothy said. “We’re trying to conduct meetings, make reports and wait for intervention from the ministries, but people just aren’t patient.”
Seng Lot, Land Management Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the ministry’s working group has been coordinating to find a solution. In the meantime, Mr Lot is asking for the cooperation of the residents to provide relevant documents.
“The working group has already received the order to deal with this case, but they have been doing a lot of work lately, so I have asked the villagers to get in touch with the working group,” he said.