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Farmers protest excavation of rice fields

Some 100 farmers gathered at Banteay Meanchey Provincial Hall on Saturday to protest the actions of a company they accuse of excavating 50 hectares of their rice fields for soil, which it sells by the truckload, according to protesters and the rights group Adhoc.

Bearing signs that read “My land is my life”, protesters called for a halt to the activities of the company, which is owned by the deputy provincial military commander, Phlun Hong, also known as Phlun Dara. Villagers said the company told them it was digging a canal for irrigation, but maintained it had not told them beforehand.

“We have cultivated the land since 1979, but Phlun Dara’s pieces of machinery scrape the land for soil to sell for $20 per truckload without informing us,” said Nem Chhun, 39, one of the protesters.

Phlun Hong’s company was one of four businesses whose licences were revoked by the Ministry of Mines and Energy late last year. Contact information for the company was unavailable yesterday.

Som Chankea, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said that since the company’s licence had been revoked, it had lost access to its previous excavation site, and had turned to villagers’ rice fields instead.

“The dug-up land is in tatters and the villagers cannot cultivate on it anymore,” he said. “Now there is no solution.”

Vi Var, provincial hall administrative director, said that the company had stopped after villagers protested and had asked permission from provincial authorities, which had not yet been granted.

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