About 200 people representing 2,000 families in Kandal province’s Ampov Prey commune yesterday gathered in front of the Kandal Stung district hall asking authorities to intervene in resolving a collective land dispute involving more than 400 hectares, which are being developed by private companies in the area.
Phok Phany, a village representative, said there was a similar case when the Heng Development Company compensated each villager $80 after buying their land in order to develop a new international airport.
However, he added that in the current dispute, more than six companies have yet to provide compensation to the people living in the 400-hectare area.
“Our people do not oppose the development but please provide the benefits of development to our villagers so they remain calm and companies can develop the land smoothly,” he said.
“It is good for the authorities, the companies and the villagers.”
Yen Yat, another village representative, said residents were dissatisfied because unidentified company employees cleared and began marking parts of their communal land.
“Those companies come to develop and put markings on our land, but this is a communal land for everyone to use together,” he said.
“They cleared our land, put markings in our lake and did not provide suitable compensation to villagers living in the area,” Mr Yat added. “So we came here to seek resolution from district authorities.”
Bo Nareth, governor of Kandal Stung district, said that even though the Heng Development Company had bought land in the area, the lake is owned by the state and cannot be sold.
Recently however, some companies and land dealers bought land overlapping the Heng Development Company’s land and claimed that a third party was instigating the dispute to provoke a reaction from villagers, prompting Mr Nareth to summon the villagers in order to find a solution.
“We will ask the residents first. After Khmer New Year, we will hold a meeting with the land management committee to check how much land is overlapping with land owned by the Heng Development Company,” he said.
Then Savoeun, general secretary of the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, who has been monitoring the case, said overlapping of land occupation, land trading and land ownership made the situation complex.
“The lack of communication and information sharing led to misunderstandings between people, companies and land traders,” he said.
“People just don’t know what land belongs to who, what is communal and what belongs to the company.”
Mr Savoeun urged local authorities to resolve the case publicly and invite all villagers and stakeholders to participate.
However, residents are not optimistic. They fear that there is no other option but to wait until after Khmer New Year for authorities in all levels of government to begin resolving the conflict.