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KSpeu land row heard at forum

HUNDREDS of villagers affected by an economic land concession in Kampong Speu province’s Omlaing commune complained during a public forum Thursday that soldiers and company employees were preventing them from planting corn on their land, even though they had been issued new land titles.

During the forum, organised by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR), villagers, rights groups, parliamentarians and local authorities discussed disputes stemming from the 9,000-hectare land concession granted to the Phnom Penh Sugar Company, which is owned by Cambodian People’s Party senator Ly Yong Phat.

“Even though some villagers have gotten new land titles from the provincial authorities, the soldiers are not allowing them to plant corn on their farmland,” said San Tho, a villager who attended the forum.

Hab Dam, Omlaing commune chief, said that more than 200 villagers had been issued new titles since last month. Despite this, she said, “The company did not allow some villagers to plant crops because their land had already been cleared, so those villagers will have to relocate.”

Chhean Kimsuon, a Phnom Penh Sugar Company representative, said by phone that the villagers “always made up lies” and that the company had a right to “protect its land”.

“The villagers are tricksters,” she said. “They haven’t planted anything on their own land but they want to plant corn on the company’s land.”

The soldiers are like a “referee”, she said, adding that the company had already cleared about 3,000 hectares. “When the rainy season starts, we will start planting sugarcane,” she said.

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