KAMPONG Speu villagers embroiled in a dispute with Cambodian People’s Party Senator Ly Yong Phat met with local officials on Monday to reiterate their demand that clear boundaries be set between their farmland and land granted to the senator’s sugar company.
Meanwhile, about 300 villagers from Omlaing commune staged a protest near the site of the company’s 9,000-hectare land concession, located in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune, with the aim of preventing future clearing operations, villagers said.
On Monday evening, about 400 Omlaing villagers blocked National Road 52 to express their frustration with the company, said Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho. He added that he worried that tension could spill over into violence.
Now we cannot do anything. we need to plant rice, but we cannot.
Suon Ly, a resident of Omlaing commune who joined in the earlier protest, said that more than 1,000 hectares of disputed land encircling the village and the villagers’ farmland had already been cleared by the company.
“Now we cannot do anything,” he said. “We need to plant rice, but we cannot because we don’t have clear boundaries between the villagers’ land and land granted to the company yet.”
Tuon Song, the governor of Thpong district, said he had met with both villagers and company representatives on Monday and that he would pass on the villagers’ request to the provincial governor.
“I will let the villagers know about their request on April 22 after I get an answer from the provincial governor,” he said.
Fearing the company would try to clear a portion of the land under the cover of darkness, about 100 villagers slept in their fields overnight Sunday despite rainy conditions, said representative San Tho.
“We did not dare to go anywhere,” San Tho said. “We stayed in the village because we were afraid that the company’s employees would grab our land.”
“Last night we were in a bad situation because of the rain,” he added.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said he is worried the villagers will face a shortage of food if the company continues to clear land and prevents them from planting crops.
“It is the season for planting rice, but the villagers cannot because they must protect their land,” he said.
Am Sam Ath said the company should allow the villagers to plant rice, and that its representatives should “continue to negotiate”.
“It’s a violation of the Land Law because the company is grabbing the villagers’ land without finding a resolution,” he said.
Chhean Kimsuon, representative for the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, declined to comment on Monday.