FAMILIES in Kep province's Prey Thom commune are protesting the alleged seizure of 65 hectares of farmland by the Western Coastal Development Co (WCDC), which has plans to use their land for an irrigation dam. Villagers say they are yet to receive promised compensation.
Villagers, many of whom said they have lived on the site since the 1980s, told the Post Tuesday that the land had been planted with mango, jackfruit, banana and coconut trees before it was cleared by the company last September. They say 31 farms are affected.
Community representative An Sokhina said that the company promised in September that it would work with villagers to resolve the dispute, but no negotiations have taken place since.
"They said the farms were state land so they did not need to pay compensation," she said, referring to an ownership category in the Land Law that gives the government the right to evict people from state land for development purposes.
Try Chhoun, provincial coordinator of local rights group Adhoc, said the villagers had raised concerns when their land was cleared by the company, but that the company had pledged not to start work until the compensation was paid.
"It seems there has been no resolution for the villagers ... the company said they will not develop this land if the Kep governor doesn't resolve this for the people," she added.
WCDC representative Thun Vorn reaffirmed that the land belonged to the state but that the government "would offer compensation" for families affected by the dam project, which will help irrigation.
"We have had a contract with the provincial governor. It is not my duty to settle this problem, it is the governor's duty, because it was he who found the land for us," he said.
Kep provincial Governor Has Saret said that the local authorities were examining the case.
"We don't know how to settle this for the people involved because it is state land."