More than 30 families living in Koh Kong province’s Kiri Sakor district yesterday protested against the work of a Special Economic Zone company owned by tycoon Ly Yong Phat.
The company, which has an economic land concession in Prek Khsach and Samrong Takeo communes, is clearing forest for development in the area.
Residents are concerned about the loss of their land, so went to stop the work of heavy machinery being used to clear the forest.
Citizen representative Ven Hout said the firm was clearing forest yesterday and on Sunday, despite land disputes between the company and local people.
“The company has previously resolved disputes with more than 100 families, but there are still more than 30 families that have no solution, so we were afraid they would clear our land and went to stop them,” he said.
“We would like to ask them to resolve the disputes with citizens first before clearing the land.”
In Kongchit, Koh Kong coordinator for rights group Licadho, said officials from the local authority and the SEZ went to negotiate with residents following their protest. They have pledged to settle the dispute in the next five days, he added.
Chan Nakry, a representative of the SEZ, said the company had only cleared land related to the 100 families with which it had already made settlements.
He said the people protested because they did not know the boundaries of their land.
“The company will cooperate with the authorities by creating a committee to investigate whether those people really have land in the area,” he said.
“We also asked the people to go and put boundaries on their land if they have legal documents, because the company has a land concession from the state, but some people claim that the land belongs to them.”
According to local residents, they have been using the land for cashew crop farming since 2002.
In 2005, some agreed to hand over the land to the company in exchange for compensation, but 30 families are refusing to give up their plots.