The Ministry of Land Management has asked authorities to search for the ringleaders who incited people in Tboung Khmum province’s Dambae district to join a protest over land which villagers had already sold to others.
The request was made after hundreds of people on Monday held a protest near Wat Botum pagoda in Phnom Penh.
The protesters gathered at Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet office in order to resolve the land disputes and prosecution of some activists.
According to the Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community, about 700 people representing about 7,615 families descended upon the government office to demand intervention.
It said the families hailed from the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Svay Rieng, Tboung Khmum and Kandal, adding that the disputes are over a total of 16,279.64 hectares in the five provinces.
Referring specifically to the dispute in Tboung Khmum and not the other provinces, the ministry in a press statement on Monday evening said that some people claiming to represent 676 families in seven communities in Dambe district’s Trapaing Pring commune had filed a complaint to demand 3,718 hectares of community forest land.
It said the dispute involved land which villagers, village and commune authorities had sold some of off since 2011 to a private company Harmony Win Investment Co Ltd; other parts of the land were given to villagers.
“The Ministry of Land Management cannot accept the demand to resolve this issue and asks the authorities to search for and take action against the ringleaders who incited people to join the protest,” the statement said.
Sem San, a representative of villagers in Dambae district, yesterday said that they could not accept the ministry’s decision not to resolve the issue. He claimed that the villagers did not sell the land to the company as stated by the ministry.
“People do not have the right to sell the land because it is state land,” Mr San said. “So if the company has the right to go and do something on it, the people also have the right to cultivate on the land.”
“Our citizens will prepare documents to go to Phnom Penh again soon to meet with the Ministry of Land Management officials and ask them to show evidence that the people had agreed to sell the land to the company, and also how many hectares the company owns,” he added.
Land Management Ministry spokesman Seng Lot could not be reached for comment yesterday.
According to a press release from the Land Management Ministry on “Land Work Progress” published last month, the ministry and the National Authority of Land Management Commission received 11,994 land dispute cases submitted by citizens by the end of May.
It said that the ministry solved 9,871 of the land dispute cases, while 2,123 are still being resolved.