About 70 representatives from five communities locked in land disputes in Koh Kong province protested in Phnom Penh yesterday, but were thwarted in their efforts as they called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to deploy his army of youths to measure their land and issue titles.
Three of the communities represented are in dispute with Chinese company Union Development Group, which received 36,000 hectares in economic land concessions (ELCs) in 2008 and about 9,000 more in 2011.
The total size of the concessions breaches the Land Law, under which a company is allowed to possess up to 10,000 hectares of ELC land.
As a result of the concessions, more than 1,100 families across Botom Sakor and Kiri Sakor districts are being evicted.
The other two communities represented at yesterday’s protest are in dispute with Heng Huy Agriculture Company in Sre Ambel district.
Rong Ky, a representative of 40 families who say their land is being taken, said police blocked the protesters as they tried to reach Hun Sen’s house.
“They said they would deliver our petitions on our behalf, but we disagreed. This led to confrontation for a while,” he said. “Our dispute has not been resolved, please let people have the right to live on the land and wait for a resolution.”
Phav Nhoeung, whose community in Sre Ambel district is in dispute with Heng Huy Agriculture Company, said the prime minister should send students to measure the families’ land as part of his national titling process.
“The authorities are not following Hun Sen’s directive. The company is taking our land,” she said.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, said the village representatives had travelled many times to the capital in hope that the prime minister would intervene to help end their land disputes.
“They keep protesting because the youths who went down to measure the land don’t seem as independent as the first group,” he said. “That’s because the local authorities – working on behalf of a company’s representatives – point them where to go.”
Lim Leangse, deputy chief of Hun Sen’s cabinet, said he had not yet received the petitions and declined to comment.