Representatives for 175 families from Koh Kong province once again gathered near Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house yesterday seeking intervention in an escalating land dispute.
The families say three development companies that claim 782 hectares of land in Botom Sakor district and Sre Ambel district have violated their lands and recently dug a canal blocking the main road of two villages.
The land has been disputed between the families and the three companies, Koh Kong Sugar Industry, Koh Kong Plantation and Heng Huy Development, since 2006.
Representative Phav Nherng said that in the past the Ministry of Land Management had visited the areas in order to find a solution.
But recently, the resolution process had come to a stand-still after Koh Kong Sugar Industry and Koh Kong Plantation dug a water canal blocking the roads in two villages, making life difficult for local people.
Ms Nherng asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to speed up the resolution process, as villagers have waited for 11 years already.
“Samdech [Hun Sen] please help solve this issue for us, because the blocked road prevents us from moving our cattle and crossing the canal. The Ministry of Land Management said they would resolve this dispute, but they have not done so, and the court summons us, claiming we are involved with many offences. It is something they have done to scare us,” she said.
Gathering in front of Wat Botum Pagoda, the representatives also tried to walk to the Prime Minister’s house, but were blocked by district security guards.
Chairman of the Council of Ministers Pal Chandara urged the citizens to file a petition asking for the Cabinet to issue an official letter to urge the Land Management Mnistry to speed up its process.
“I can see that the Ministry of Land Management has worked hard to solve this problem. Tep Thon went to check the site directly, so the mechanism is going forward, but it is not as fast as the people want. Solving land disputes is not easy,” he said.
Mr Thon, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, and representatives of the three companies could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Executive Director of the Housing Rights Task Force Sia Phearum said villagers are suffering as the case drags on.
“The villagers are unable to work because each day they are busy protecting their land,” he said. “They lose their livelihoods, and their children migrate abroad to earn money to protect their land.”