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Ministry to meet sugar companies over land dispute

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
Land Ministry of cials meeting with Koh Kong villagers. KT/Pech Sotheary

The Land Ministry will meet with the three companies at the center of the decade-long land dispute in Koh Kong province this week in an attempt to finally resolve the villagers’ grievances.
 
In a letter made available to the public yesterday, the ministry’s secretary of state Ou Vordy asked Koh Kong Sugar Industry (KSI) and Koh Kong Plantation to meet with the ministry’s land dispute working group on Friday to find a solution for some 175 families who claim the companies cleared their land illegally.
 
Heng Huy Development, the third company involved in the land disputes, was not mentioned in the letter but citizen representative Phay Nherng claims to have gotten verbal confirmation from the ministry that the company will be attending the meeting as well.
 
“The company managers, please collaborate with the ministry,” the letter dated January 16 read.
 
Tep Thorn, who heads the working group and is the ministry’s undersecretary of state, could not be reached for comment.
 
However Ms. Nherng said that Mr. Thorn had informed her during a recent meeting that the ministry would also raise the three demands of the villagers to the companies.
 
The three demands are that each person be given two hectares of land, each family be given $5,000 in compensation and that the companies repair all the damaged roads in the area.
 
He also confirmed to her that Heng Huy Development would attend the meeting with the ministry.
 
“The citizens are waiting to hear the outcome of the ministry’s meeting with the companies. The citizens will continue to protest if the company does not accept our request,” she said.
 
Families in Koh Kong province’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor districts have repeatedly complained that the companies, especially KSI, are guilty of land grabbing after the company in 2006 was granted a 2,239-hectare economic land concession. Hundreds of families have since rejected compensation offers.
 
In Kongchit, provincial coordinator for rights group Licadho, lauded the government’s initiative and hoped a solution would be found soon.
 
“Relevant institutions should accept the requests of citizens and try to solve their problems quickly to keep them calm. If the citizens want to protest, it is their right because they want a solution,” he said.

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