REPRESENTATIVES of 160 families in Kampong Cham province’s Tbong Khmum district on Monday staged a protest outside the local office of the Cambodian Veterans Association, which they have accused of trying to force them from their land.
However, Chin Saren, the chief of the Kampong Cham branch of the association, said it had received a social land concession from the government for the 803 hectares that have been claimed by the families, adding that he believed many of the protesters did not actually live on the disputed land.
Sos Mayan, who took part in Monday’s protest, said the families had been living on the land since 1979, and that the association had rejected their request to continue farming there.
“We asked permission from the officers to grow vegetables, but even though we asked they did not allow us to,” she said.
Before deciding to grant a ... concession, they need to do their research.
Chin Saren said the association wanted to plant rice and tobacco on the land, and that the proceeds would benefit veterans and their families in the province. He said that more than 200 of the 803 hectares was uninhabited, and that only 10 families would be affected by the concession.
He said the company would not provide compensation to any families beyond the 10, and that many of the protesters belonged to families that had logged illegally in the area.
“We don’t have a policy for providing compensation for villagers who are cutting down trees and taking over state property for selling. They are not real villagers in the commune. They are from outside,” he said.
“We will provide compensation only to the real 10 families, and they have agreed to take the relocation land already.”
Neag Sovath, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said the government should take steps to avoid granting concessions that overlap with land that has already been settled.
“Before deciding to grant a social or economic land concession, they need to do their research and don’t overlap with villagers’ land,” he said.
Suon Sokly, the governor of Tbong Khmum district, could not be reached for comment on Monday.