A GROUP of 154 families in Banteay Meanchey province have sent a petition to provincial authorities demanding that they be granted land they say was promised to them last year in exchange for 300 hectares of farmland.
Sim Bunsang, a representative of the families, said they had reached an agreement in May 2009 whereby they would trade their farmland – which officials said they wished to convert into a tree plantation – for 300 hectares of forest land.
The land they gave up is located in Svay Chek district’s Sla Kram commune.
“The provincial authorities gave us the land only on paper, but the community and the villagers have not received the actual land yet. We request that the provincial authorities intervene and make the Forestry Administration give us the 300 hectares of land promised to our community,” Sim Bunsang said.
He added that their former farmland had been cleared and was being cultivated by a private company that had planted cassava and “small trees”.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the authorities should honour the agreement reached with the families, but Tea Kimsoth, provincial deputy chief of the Forestry Administration, said he was unaware of the deal.
He added that it would be “out of legal procedure” to give state land to families.
“The request made by the villagers is not possible because they want land from the government to divide and share among themselves,” he said.