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Land dispute protest drags on

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
wikimedia/Paul Mason/CC0
wikimedia/Paul Mason/CC0

Representatives of 175 families in Koh Kong province gathered once again in front of the Ministry of Land Management yesterday to ask for a quicker resolution to a decade-long land dispute.

Land Management Minister Chea Sophara announced the creation of a working group to solve the dispute at the end of August 2017. The group visited the families, but since then the resolution process has stalled, residents claim.

Phav Nherng, the citizens’ representative in Kho Kong’s Sre Ambel and Botum Sakor district, asked the ministry to speed up the process and make land titles for the families.

The residents have been involved in a land dispute with three sugar companies, Koh Kong Sugar Industry, Koh Kong Plantation, and Heng Huy Company.

“The ministry did an incomplete job solving this problem. For us this means debt, losing our businesses, being unable to farm,” Ms Nherng said. “Everybody in Cambodia is focused on politics, nobody cares about our problems.”

Tep Thon, the director of the working group, said the ministry did not ignore the people, but that the process is long because any decision must be made in coordination between the Ministries of Land Management, Environment, Agriculture, and Commerce.

“I have already met them, and I rejected their proposal and asked them to go home first. This case has happened for more than 10 years, so we cannot do what they want right now because we are trying to find the solution step by step.”

Sia Phearum, executive director of the Housing Rights Task Force, has been monitoring the land dispute and expects the ministry to solve the issue and help the affected people.

Mr Phearum said that otherwise the people should be able to protest at the national level and affect the ruling party’s ballot in the upcoming election.

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