MORE than 1,000 people in Kampong Speu province protested over the weekend amid fears they would be evicted to make room for a development by a sugar company owned by a Cambodian People’s Party senator, though local officials said families would not be affected by the company’s development plans.
The protest began on Saturday in front of the Omlaing commune offices in Kampong Speu’s Thpong district, and continued on Sunday before commune officials met with some of the commune residents to hear their concerns.
“Today, we are meeting with villagers to find a resolution, because Phnom Penh Sugar Company has the right to develop 9,000 hectares of this land, but we will not allow the company to take the villagers’ land,” said Omlaing commune chief Harb Dam.
Kampong Speu governor Kang Heang confirmed that Phnom Penh Sugar Company was owned by Ly Yong Phat, a CPP senator whose Angkor Sugar Company is at the centre of a land dispute in Oddar Meanchey province.
He said Phnom Penh Sugar Company had been awarded an economic land concession for the 9,000 hectares, but he could not confirm when the concession was granted.
Hi Hoeun, a 55-year-old protester, said many of the families had been living on their land since 1979. He noted that although the families had not received a formal eviction notice, they had grown concerned after 12 excavators and six bulldozers appeared on the disputed land last Thursday.
“We would like to ask the company to stop their 12 excavators and six bulldozers and wait for negotiations, because we want our rice and farmland, and we don’t want to get a compensation payment,” he said.
Ly Yong Phat could not be reached for comment on Sunday, and contact information for other Phnom Penh Sugar Company staff was not available.