About 160 villagers from Kratie province’s Meanchey village cancelled plans to block National Road 7 yesterday after provincial authorities and a Vietnamese rubber company agreed to their requests regarding an ongoing land dispute, but some expressed scepticism that the agreement would last.
Village representative Saren Ket told the Post that rubber firm CIV Develop Agro Industry and provincial governor Kham Phoeun had agreed yesterday to return farmland to villagers that was taken from them nearly four years ago.
The rights to 300 hectares of land around the village have been in dispute since 2008, when the Vietnamese company began claiming legal ownership of more than 1,000 hectares of land in the area.
Saren Ket said the villagers were dubious that the company would carry through with its promise to return the land.
“I don’t trust their promise 100 per cent,” he said.
Another villager representative, Yi Noeun, said CIV had given the villagers permission yesterday to resume planting crops on the land, but had requested US$500 a hectare for the privilege.
He said he thought the villagers had been offered this resolution only to quell the dispute until commune elections took place next year.
“Now everything is good, but I am afraid that after the commune elections, everything will change,” Yi Noeun said.
Yi Soksan, deputy head of the land program at rights group Adhoc, said he did not fully buy into promises by CIV to return the land and found it odd CIV was charging for land that originally belonged to the villagers.
“I think the authorities only made the promise to trick the villagers, so they would not block National Road 7.
“Why do they need to get $500 per hectare from the villagers? The villagers did not ask them [CIV] to clear their land, they came and took over the villagers’ land,” he said.
CIV representative Chin Hong Sri could not be reached for comment yesterday.