Authorities in Pursat’s Krakor district yesterday ordered a cassava company to stop clearing land on which more than 60 families claim they have planted rice and other crops since 1997, villagers and a company official said.
Following protests in Anlong Tnort commune on Tuesday, villager Lim Kim Y, 51, said district governor Tim Sarin met with them yesterday and announced he was suspending the activities of company Ratanak Visal on the land, which was being prepared for a cassava plantation.
“They asked the company to stop clearing the land, but the company’s machinery is still in the disputed area,” he said. “The local authorities are paying us lip service – we’ve yet to see any official letter ordering the company to stop clearing the land.”
Even so, Kim Y said, the villagers would stop protesting to give the company a chance to withdraw from the area.
When contacted yesterday, Sarin, the district governor, said he was too busy to comment on the meeting.
Kim Y, a former border police officer, said the disputed land was about 250 hectares of Ratanak Visal’s economic land concession.
Following initial clearings and protests, villagers had been told by the government that provincial lawmakers would meet them after the election to address the issue, he added. “The election’s now over and no one has seen any representatives come and settle this case for us.”
Tuon Nguon, a company representative present at yesterday’s meeting, confirmed an order to suspend the land clearing had been issued. But Kim Y, he added, had “masterminded” the protests in an attempt to gain land he is not entitled to.
“There are three masterminds … who led people from outside the commune and from Phnom Penh,” he said.
“In fact, for people affected, we have already measured land based on a government directive. We used to have more than 3,600 hectares of land, but now we have measured and given up more than 1,400 following the directive. I do not know what to do next,” he said.